Thai Airways International has apologized after a flight was delayed and passengers were bumped to make room in first class for off-duty pilots. It's understood that when flying, there are some delays that you just can't do anything about: weather conditions, waiting for a runway spot or a flight crew to arrive, all the kinds of things that passengers can expect to stop them taking off on time.
Sometimes, passengers can even expect to be 'bumped', as it becomes more and more common for airlines to overbook flights - leading to situations where some passengers have to wait for the next flight (and thankfully, are often compensated for their troubles). However, a recent Thai Airways flight saw delays and bumped passengers for a reason that could easily have been avoided; off duty pilots refusing to fly anything less than First Class!
The incident took place on flight TG971 from Zurich to Bangkok on Oct 11. Two off-duty pilots were deadheading (taking the flight without paying, as a perk of the job), and wanted to fly first-class. However, when first-class was found to be full, the on-duty pilots refused to take off unless first-class passengers gave up their seats to their off-duty colleagues. It took two hours before a couple was finally willing to give up their seats so that the plane could take off, and the couple later complained about their treatment, and the fact that the off-duty pilots refused to simply sit in business-class.
Airline president Sumeth Damrongchaitham later posted an apology to the airline's Facebook page (it appears to have now been taken down) calling the incident 'severe'. The post also stated that an investigation would be opened into the situation.
I express sorrow and apologise to all passengers affected by the unprofessional action that caused the delay. And I apologise to the passengers who were directly affected by the seat change. I take responsibility...
Expecting a first class seat is certainly not the norm for most airline employees - unless they buy one themselves at full price! The majority of the time, pilots and flight attendants will only fly entirely for free when commuting for work, and otherwise still have to pay taxes, fuel surcharges, etc. They are also usually put on standby, and only get a seat at all if the flight is not completely full - a far cry from these pilots' expectations of first-class seating! Of course, there are some contracts that stipulate business or first class seating, especially on long-haul flights, and it is not clear whether or not that is the case here.
Source: Bangkok Post