Aer Lingus pilots’ industrial action: Up to 40,000 passengers to be contacted

The action has been called ‘insidious’ by the company, which is cancelling up to 20% of flights over a five-day period.

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

Up to 40,000 passengers are expected to be contacted by Aer Lingus in the coming days about flights cancelled due to pilots’ industrial action next week.

The airline is to get in touch with passengers from Friday and offer a refund or alternative booking.

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 is cancelling 10-20% of flights over a five-day period.

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

“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,” he told RTE Radio.

Mr Moriarty said that people have also been given the option to cancel or rebook their flights for a later date for free.

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 would involve 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 had been no pay deals in Ireland that delivered such an increase.

Irish premier Simon Harris said it was “utterly reprehensible” that children due to go on holiday were being “used as pawns” in the industrial relations dispute and urged the airline and the pilots to “sort this out”.

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 that Aer Lingus pilots are already paid “very well” and said their salaries were “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’s members are on the top pay package of around 287,000 euros, which includes the value of pensions and other benefits.

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