Aer Lingus dispute: Ialpa chief accuses airline of escalating row with ‘campaign of antagonism’ against members

Strike plan by pilots set for June 29th follows Aer Lingus announcement of cancellation of 124 flights over five days from next Wednesday to contain impact of strict work-to-rule

Mark Tighe, Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) president, with principal officers Owen Kelly (left), and Daniel Langan after presenting legal notice of industrial action to Aer Lingus headquarters at Dublin Airport on Friday. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Aer Lingus passengers face a strike and flight cancellations next week as the airline’s pay dispute with its pilots deepens.

Members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) told the company on Friday that they would halt work from 5am to 1pm on Saturday, June 29th.

Their move came just an hour after Aer Lingus’s announcement that it would cancel 124 flights over five days from Wednesday to contain the impact of a strict and open-ended work to rule that Ialpa has announced will begin on that day in its ongoing campaign for a 23.88 per cent pay increase.

Routes hit include Dublin-New York JFK and Cork-Heathrow, along with flights from the Republic’s capital to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Rome, Frankfurt, Geneva, Manchester, Munich, Vienna, Hamburg, Lyons, Düsseldorf and Birmingham.


Aer Lingus pilots announce strike accusing airline of escalating disputeOpens in new window ]

Ialpa president Capt Mark Tighe accused Aer Lingus of escalating the dispute through a “campaign of antagonism” against union members.

That included a threat to take High Court action against him and other union executive members “for alleged unlawful conduct” over a claimed increase in illness among pilots. “Ialpa refutes this allegation in the strongest terms,” Capt Tighe said.

A company pilot-sickness review body has been contacting members individually, something their union regards as threatening behaviour, according to its president.

He added that Aer Lingus had threatened to terminate all its agreements with the pilots’ union as those work practices were no longer compatible with the airline’s business.

Aer Lingus had to cancel 56 flights this year due to pilots being ill or unavailableOpens in new window ]

Capt Tighe argued that the scale of next week’s cancellations showed the extent to which the carrier relied on pilots’ goodwill and flexibility.

“We go above and beyond to provide a good service to customers,” he added.

Ialpa’s work to rule leaves Aer Lingus without the flexibility in pilot rosters it needs to operate its full holiday-season schedule.

The airline maintains that the cancellations are designed to preserve as many flights as possible and to minimise the risk of last-minute disruption to services.

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Aer Lingus condemned the union for inflicting “further pain” on customers by announcing an eight-hour strike next Saturday.

“Ialpa’s decision is clearly designed to inflict maximum damage on passengers’ travel plans at the peak of the holiday season,” said the airline.

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

“Aer Lingus will assess the impact of this notice of strike action and do everything we can to minimise the further disruption this will cause to passengers.”

However, Capt Tighe argued that the dispute would not have reached this point if Aer Lingus had restarted negotiations with Ialpa instead of threatening to cut its terms and conditions. “We never wanted it to come to this and we have made it clear that passengers are very important to us pilots,” he said.

However, Donal Moriarty, Aer Lingus’s chief corporate affairs officer, said the company was seeking a meeting with the union next week.

Aer Lingus is offering all passengers who have booked flights between Wednesday, June 26th, and Tuesday, July 2nd, several options, including cancelling their trips and taking cash or voucher refunds, or altering their booking for free.

It has been contacting affected customers directly with details of cancellations and flight changes since early on Friday. Aer Lingus predicted that the process would continue into Saturday.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

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