Aer Lingus strike likely after just six of 668 pilots vote against industrial action

Aer Lingus and trade union Ialpa have failed to reach agreement on a pay increase for the airline’s pilots after months of negotiations

Attitudes on both sides of the Aer Lingus dispute appear to have hardened in recent days. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The gulf between the sides in the Aer Lingus pilots’ pay row looked wider than ever on Monday, leaving the carrier facing its first strike since 2002 in coming weeks after union members overwhelmingly backed industrial action.

Sources were not optimistic that a strike could be averted, as attitudes appeared to be hardening on both sides. Just six of the 668 pilots who voted in a ballot that ran for three days opposed industrial action.

Pilots are seeking pay increases of 23.88 per cent, which the airline maintains amounts to 27 per cent and would boost some long-haul captains’ pay to more than €347,000 in total from €287,000 currently.

However, the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) says those calculations apply to just a handful of members, while it points out that newly recruited pilots start at €42,000 and cadets at €35,000.


Pilots recently rejected a Labour Court deal recommendation that they accept 9.25 per cent in pay hikes, to which Aer Lingus agreed, while in January they turned down 8.5 per cent tabled by an internal company tribunal.

Ialpa president Capt Mark Tighe argues that pilots want their earnings to reflect the 19 per cent cost-of-living increase since 2019, and to match counterparts in British Airways, who he says received a 24 per cent boost, and Lufthansa, which increased pay by 27 per cent.

Donal Moriarty, Aer Lingus chief corporate affairs officer, maintains that British Airways, which along with the Irish carrier is part of International Airlines Group (IAG), included post-Covid pay restoration in its deal.

He noted that Aer Lingus had already restored pre-Covid pay. “Aer Lingus did exactly the same thing,” he says, “for all pilots, including new entrants.”

The union says pilots have not had a pay increase since 2019. However, Mr Moriarty counters that they received annual increments, which are a part of their pay, worth 23 per cent since then.

Capt Daniel Langan, Ialpa vice-president finance, says that is not correct, as those on the top of their respective pay scales get very low increments, while others get higher amounts.

Ialpa has consistently pointed to the fact that Aer Lingus earned €225 million profits last year. However, Mr Moriarty noted that this still trails the €305 million surplus that the airline generated in 2018.

He said the 2023 operating margin was 9.9 per cent, the lowest in IAG, against more than 15 per cent five years previously.

Capt Langan noted that Aer Lingus’ margin was “just 0.1 per cent behind British Airways”, which increased its pilots’ pay by 24 per cent.