Pilots at Aer Lingus vote for industrial action as airline describes pay claim as ‘exorbitant’

Union says 98% of pilots back possible strike action

Ialpa said pilots overwhelmingly backsed strike action. Photograph: Leah Farrell/© RollingNews.ie

The prospect of major disruption to Aer Lingus services over the coming weeks has increased after pilots at the airline voted by a large margin in favour of industrial action in a dispute over pay.

In a ballot that concluded on Wednesday afternoon, 98 per cent of members of the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) who voted indicated they were in favour of industrial action, up to and including a strike, in support of their claim for increases totaling 23.8 per cent over three and a half years. The turnout was also said to be 98 per cent.

Talks between the two sides continued on Wednesday evening, however, and the union’s executive has not yet made any decision on the nature or timing of any industrial action in the event they produce a deal.

Ialpa president Mark Tighe said the union would announce what action it might take “in due course” but said he hoped the company’s management would “come to its senses”.


“The result of this ballot shows the resolve and determination of our members to get a fair share of the large profits that Aer Lingus are making,“, said Mr Tighe.

He said pay at the airline had failed to keep pace with that at airlines like British Airways, Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic in recent years.

At least seven days’ notice would have to be given of any strike action but this would cause enormous disruption for customers of the airline as the peak of the summer holiday period, during which Aer Lingus would expect to carry some 40,000 passengers per day, approaches.

Aer Lingus’s chief corporate affairs officer Donal Moriarty, said the result of the ballot had not come as a surprise given the recommendation by Ialpa that its members vote in favour of taking action. He said the airline was still hoping the ongoing talks would produce a resolution but that “unfortunately I can’t report any meaningful progress in those talks yet”.

He described the increases being sought by the pilots as “exorbitant and frankly untenable” saying they would and between €40 million and €45 million to the company’s cost base. He said that if Ialpa did proceed with strike action “it’s inevitable there will be a severe impact with a large number of flight cancellations”.

The Labour Court recently recommended interim increases worth 9.25 per cent for the company’s roughly 800 pilots while setting aside the issue of a crewing arrangement that provided pilots with improved flexibility in respect of summer leave. It suggested the cost of this could be addressed over the course of future deals. It also said the two sides should then return to the Workplace Relations Commission for talks on a wider deal.

The company accepted the recommendation but the union rejected it, arguing pilots had not had a pay increase since 2019 – something the company disputes – they had made significant sacrifices to help the company during Covid and that CSO figures suggested pay increases received across the economy in the past five years have averaged 24 per cent.

Pilot pay at the airline is understood to be significantly better than at Ryanair with rates of about €60,000 for some new entrants and €167,500 for captains with 20 years’ service. A small number are paid more than that while allowances, pension and other payments substantially boost basic pay rates, by more than €70,000 in the case of the long service captains.

Mr Moriarty said the claim, if accepted, would add €50,000 a year to the overall pay of the company’s highest earning pilots.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times