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Aer Lingus cancels 124 flights in first five days of pilots’ industrial action

Aer Lingus has described the pay demand as unrealistic (Steve Parsons/PA)
Aer Lingus has described the pay demand as unrealistic (Steve Parsons/PA)

Aer Lingus has cancelled 124 flights over the first five days of pilots’ industrial action planned for next week.

The airline said this will affect 20,000 customers over the five days as it moved to accommodate people amid the busy summer holiday season.

An indefinite work-to-rule by Aer Lingus pilots will begin from next Wednesday, which means they will not engage in overtime or out-of-hours duties.

The move has been branded as “insidious” by the company, which has so far cancelled flights at the “lower end” of the 10-20% proportion it had warned of.

Donal Moriarty, chief corporate affairs officer at Aer Lingus, said this form of industrial action “gets worse day by day” so there was a risk further cancellations.

He told RTE Radio: “What will happen over the next couple of days is that impacted passengers will be contacted and advised of cancellations if it affects them and then given their options in terms of refund, re-accommodation or voucher.”

The airline said it had automatically rebooked some customers on to alternative flights and has begun emailing all other customers informing them of the cancellation and advising them of their options.

People who are worried about their flight being cancelled have also been given the option to cancel or rebook their flights for a later date for free.

The list of cancelled flights is available on the “Travel Advisory” section on the Aer Lingus website.

Pilots, represented by the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (Ialpa), are seeking a pay increase of 24%, which they say equates to inflation since the last pay rise in 2019.

Ialpa president Mark Tighe said the work-to-rule will see pilots working to the letter of their contracts.

He said: “Some serious questions need to be raised here about management’s operation of the airline because if you think about it they’re selling tickets, so they’re committing to bring people from A to B, so they have to have enough pilots to do that.

“If they’re going to cancel up to 20% of the operation because pilots don’t want to work on a day off, that’s not credible really, there’s something else going on here – there’s a shortage of pilots.”

Aer Lingus has described the pay demand as unrealistic and said there have been no pay deals in Ireland that delivered such an increase.

Irish premier Simon Harris said people need to “step back from the brink” in relation to the dispute.

“The Government has a willingness for parties to come together through the Government’s industrial relations mechanisms, and they are available to all of the parties and I would encourage parties to it,” Mr Harris said on Friday.

“People need to step back from the brink in relation to this.

“Of course, anybody has a right in their workplace to highlight an issue, I get that. But what I do not get is the fact that at this time of the year, when people in our country are about to go on their summer holidays, people who’ve worked hard and saved up throughout the year are about to be seriously discommoded by this action.

“I don’t think there is a justification for that, quite frankly, in terms of the impact it will have.

“The impact is disproportionate and… people need to step back from the brink.

“This will affect children and parents looking to go on holidays. It also affects business and will also affect people coming into our country too in terms of tourism at these busy times.

“Disputes only ever get resolved by engagement, that’s how they always end up being resolved. The question for both parties now is, will they try and resolve it and show a maturity in relation to this, or are they going to allow this to trundle on and then ultimately end up in talks.

“Talks need to happen. What I’m asking is now we shorten the protracted process and all the chaos that would ensue for people and actually get around the table quickly.”

Mr Moriarty said: “We would like to engage in direct discussions with Ialpa to reach a reasonable settlement to this pay dispute and we are trying to do that, but unfortunately Ialpa ended those discussions last Monday.”

He said Aer Lingus pilots are already paid “very well” and their salaries are “in line” with the market rates.

“There is a pay deal on offer to them of a 12.25% increase, which they’ve declined,” he said.

“We have also tried to discuss with them building upon that over and above 12.25% by discussing improvements in productivity and flexibility, but unfortunately Ialpa have been unwilling (to engage) with those discussions.”

Around a quarter of all Ialpa members are on the top pay package of around 287,000 euro (£243,000), which includes the value of pensions and other benefits.

To reach this pay package takes 26 years and several exams, representatives have said.