Aer Lingus may seek aid from rival airlines during pilots’ industrial action

Airline weighs options ahead of next week’s work to rule as Ialpa seeks close to 24% pay rise

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary suggested earlier this week his company may add extra flights if Aer Lingus pilots opted to strike, but cautioned that such industrial action involved very short notice. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Aer Lingus could ask rival airlines to carry passengers whose flights are cancelled as a result of pilots’ planned industrial action, the company confirmed on Wednesday.

Members of the trade union, the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa), in Aer Lingus plan a strict work to rule from June 26th in a move set to hit flights and holidaymakers.

Aer Lingus predicted on Wednesday that disruption was inevitable as a result and vowed to communicate any “changes, delays or cancellations” to affected customers as soon as possible.

Separately, both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste called on both sides to enter talks and thrash out a solution.


Aer Lingus talks on industrial action unlikely for daysOpens in new window ]

“Where there are cancellations, we will look to reaccommodate customers as quickly as possible and will work with other airlines, with partner airlines, and seek to hire in aircraft for this purpose,” Aer Lingus said.

Aer Lingus is part of the International Airlines Group (IAG), along with British Airways, and Spain’s Iberia and Vueling, which all fly between Dublin and various destinations in their home countries.

Sources said Aer Lingus was weighing all options including calling on carriers outside IAG to aid it in carrying passengers if it must cancel flights. “They have relationships with a lot of airlines,” one noted.

Work to rule will be more disruptive for Aer Lingus than one day strikesOpens in new window ]

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary suggested earlier this week that his company could add extra flights if Aer Lingus pilots opted to strike, but cautioned that such industrial action involved very short notice.

British Airways flies between Dublin and London City and Heathrow airports. Iberia serves Madrid, Malaga and Barcelona, popular with Irish holidaymakers, while Vueling also flies to the Spanish capital.

The independently operated Aer Lingus Regional confirmed the work to rule would not affect its flights, which are mostly between Ireland and Britain.

Along with customers, Aer Lingus said it would communicate with travel agents. It advised passengers who had booked flights through third parties to contact those businesses.

“The nature of this industrial action will cause a significant impact on our flight schedules,” the airline warned, saying it would do everything to minimise this.

Aer Lingus confirmed on Wednesday that an increase in pilots’ illness and availability prompted it to cancel 56 flights since the start of the year.

Ialpa maintains that the company is short of pilots, which Aer Lingus refutes.

Aer Lingus strike likely after just six of 668 pilots vote against industrial actionOpens in new window ]

From next Wednesday, Ialpa members in the Republic will only work according to published rosters, with no overtime or out-of-hours duties.

This will include not taking managers’ calls out of hours, not accepting changes to rosters and not fulfilling any requests to work out of hours. This will limit Aer Lingus’s ability to manage delays and other problems that arise regularly, particularly during this time of year.

Ialpa is seeking a 23.88 per cent pay increase to compensate pilots for inflation and bring salaries into line with carriers including British Airways.

Aer Lingus has branded this as exorbitant and warned that it was “simply not going to happen”.

Capt Mark Tighe, Ialpa’s president, warned this week that management needed to change its approach to the union’s pay claim if it wanted to avoid worsening the dispute.

Taoiseach Simon Harris urged those on both sides of the dispute to “get back in a room and sort this out”, saying industrial action will cause “upheaval” for holidaymakers.

Aer Lingus passengers: ‘We’re really stressed. We’ve been planning a dream trip for the past year’Opens in new window ]

Speaking at the opening of the Ulster Canal link project in Clones, Co Monaghan on Wednesday, Mr Harris said “on a human level”, many who have worked hard all year and put aside money to get away during the summer will be impacted by the work-to-rule action.

“The disruption and upheaval that this will cause for people who have worked hard all year to get to the point of a summer holiday is something that really, really needs to be rectified.

“There needs to be a bit of common sense, a bit of cop on here and there are industrial relations mechanisms in place, the labour court has given an adjudication on this matter and I’d really call for people to now step back from the brink,” he said.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said there is an “urgency” to protect holidaymakers in respect of any industrial disruption taken by pilots.

“There is an onus on all sides to go to the Labour Relations Commission and get this resolved,” he said.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times