Aer Lingus dispute escalates: Pilots plan strike as airline gives details of cancelled flights

Eight-hour stoppage announced for Saturday, June 29th in escalation of dispute that has already seen 124 flights cancelled

Mark Tighe, president of pilots' union Ialpa with colleagues at Aer Lingus headquarters at Dublin Airport on Friday announcing additional industrial action. Photograph: Alan Betson

Aer Lingus has informed passengers of details of flight cancellations planned for next week as pilots start a strict work to rule. The pilots responded by accusing the airline of escalating the dispute and announcing an all-out stoppage for eight hours on Saturday of next week.

On Friday afternoon, the airline said 24 flights a day have been cancelled in the first five days on the industrial action to Sunday next – a total of 124 flights over those five days.

“This will impact approximately 4,000 customers per day and 20,000 customers over the course of the five days,” Aer Lingus said in a statement.

The routes affected from include the Dublin-New York JFK transatlantic service. Other routes from Dublin affected are those to London Heathrow, Paris, Amsterdam, Lyon, Berlin, Birmingham, Brussels, Düsseldorf, Rome, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hamburg, Manchester, Munich and Vienna. The Cork-London Heathrow route is also affected.


Pilots responded by announcing an all-out stoppage for eight hours from 5am to 1pm on Saturday, June 29th after accusing the company of escalating their dispute over pay. This is in addition to the previously announced strict work to rule from Wednesday of next week.

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Members of the Irish Airlines Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) served notice of the stoppage on the company on Friday afternoon.

The level of cancellations announced by Aer Lingus is currently at the lower end of the 10 per cent to 20 per cent range outlined by the airline on Thursday. “However, given the form of the industrial action, there may be additional cancellations which happen close to the time of travel,” it cautioned.

“The insidious and indefinite form of Ialpa’s industrial action is designed to severely disrupt passengers in the peak of the summer season. Without these cancellations, the impact would be a lot worse for customers,” the statement said.

It said it had automatically rebooked some customers onto alternative flights and had begun emailing all other customers informing them of the cancellation and advising them of their options. These are to change their flight for free, to request a refund or to request a voucher.

The company had said on Thursday that it expected to cancel between 22 and 44 flights daily affecting up to 8,000 passengers in the first week of the pilot action.

Aer Lingus will also contact travel agents and it advised anyone who booked flights through a third party to contact those businesses.

Most of the flights affected will be on routes connecting the Republic’s airports with Europe, but some transatlantic services may also be affected. Services from Cork, Dublin and Shannon airports will also be hit.

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Aer Lingus stressed that cancelling flights in advance was an attempt to protect as many flights as possible and minimise last-minute disruption.

Donal Moriarty, Aer Lingus’s chief corporate affairs officer, said the pilots’ planned work to rule would have otherwise had unpredictable consequences, including last-minute flight cancellations.

“We want to emphasise that this is to protect as many of our services as possible,” Mr Moriarty said.

Members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) plan a strict work to rule from June 26th, a move that Aer Lingus concedes will hit flights and holidaymakers, in their pursuit of a near-24 per cent pay increase.

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EU rules requiring airlines to compensate passengers for cancellations will not apply where customers themselves opt to cancel their flights and take a cash or voucher refund, or if they change their booking for free.

Where flights are cancelled within 14 days, EU rules require airlines to pay each passenger compensation ranging from €250 for short-haul flights to €600 for long-haul trips, along with offering them fare refunds or alternative flights.

On the basis of Aer Lingus’s own fleet and previous payouts, compensation for a cancelled short-haul flight could cost the airline €40,000, while the bill for an axed North American service could reach €140,000.

Aer Lingus recently calculated that cancelling 13 transatlantic flights last September cost it €2 million, almost €154,000 on average. That would have included costs other than compensation.

Under the work to rule Ialpa members will work strictly to published rosters, with no overtime or out-of-hours duties, eliminating the normal flexibility that the company needs to operate its summer schedule.

Ialpa confirmed yesterday that Aer Lingus had not sought to meet the union since it served notice.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

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