Air travel comeback brings cold comfort for Aer Lingus ground crew

With pay freeze in place and rising bills due to inflation, next two years will be tough

Aer Lingus calculates its pandemic losses at €1 million per day. Photograph Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

Aer Lingus calculates its pandemic losses at €1 million per day. Photograph Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

 

More than 1,000 Aer Lingus ground crew face pay freezes for the next two years following a recent Labour Court ruling. The issue ended up in the industrial relations forum after more than 80 per cent of those staff in the airline rejected management proposals last year. However, the court has found that a pay freeze is justified until 2024.

Ground crew, represented by trade union Siptu, are likely to feel hard done by nonetheless. Like all aviation workers, they’ve endured a torrid two years, made worse in this country’s case by severe Government curbs on travel.

Their employer will argue that it had struggles, too. Aer Lingus calculates its pandemic losses at €1 million a day. The airline has been rebuilding its schedule and is primed for a recovery this year. That will include the restoration of a transatlantic network, key to the profits it earned before coronavirus sparked travel chaos two years ago.

The airline will not restore all North American destinations that it served previously, but it will boost frequencies on some routes, so its schedule will be busier. Aer Lingus will back this up with the return of short-haul services to and from Europe.

Everyone – airlines, airports, tourist businesses – is suddenly optimistic about the year ahead. Aer Lingus’s traditional rival Ryanair will offer a record 120 routes from Dublin in summer 2022. Meanwhile, airports are offering all airlines heavy discounts in return for bringing passengers back.

While there are grounds for this improved mood, the recovery has not happened yet. Even as it does, it will take a few years to repair the financial damage that Covid lockdown curbs did to many businesses, so they are going to watch costs carefully.

The problem for workers, including Aer Lingus ground staff, is that their bills are rising even while pay is frozen. After two years of struggling with Covid fallout, they now face at least another 12 months of coping with inflation. If the recovery arrives as expected, companies will have to square that circle with their workers.

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