Aer Lingus Q&A: 20,000 passengers to be impacted as airline lists routes facing cancellations

124 flights have been cancelled in the first five days of pay dispute, which has escalated with pilots’ planned strike on June 29th

Up to 44 flights will be cancelled each day from next Wednesday, June 26th. Photograph: Alan Betson

Aer Lingus is beginning to contact up to thousands of passengers whose flights will be cancelled due to industrial action.

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.

Here’s everything we know (and don’t know) so far:

Will my Aer Lingus flight be cancelled?


On Friday afternoon, Aer Lingus published a list of routes impacted by the cancellations in the first five days of the industrial action from next Wednesday, June 26th. They are the short-haul routes from Dublin – London Heathrow; Paris; Amsterdam; Lyon; Berlin; Birmingham; Brussels; Düsseldorf; Rome; Frankfurt; Geneva; Hamburg; Manchester; Munich; and Vienna. Also included are the short haul route Cork – London Heathrow and the long-haul route Dublin – JFK in New York.

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What else is Aer Lingus saying?

It said a total of “24 flights a day have been cancelled in the first five days on the industrial action – 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. The level of cancellations is currently at the lower end of the 10 per cent – 20 per cent range. However, given the form of the industrial action there may be additional cancellations which happen close to the time of travel”.

Aer Lingus criticised the “insidious and indefinite” form of industrial action undertaken by the Irish Airlines Pilots’ Association (Ialpa). “Without these cancellations, the impact would be a lot worse for customers,” the airline said.

Well, that seems bad.

It is actually worse than that. Pilots responded to the Aer Lingus move 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 on top of the strict work-to-rule. Members of Ialpa served notice of the stoppage on the company on Friday afternoon.

What are the passengers to do?

There is not much that can be done about the all out stoppage for now. With regard to the cancellations, Aer Lingus has said it has “automatically rebooked some customers onto alternative flights and has begun emailing all other customers informing them of the cancellation and advising them of their options: to change their flight for free, to request a refund or to request a voucher.

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Why is it cancelling flights if there is only a work-to-rule – aside from on June 29th?

Because we are heading into peak holiday season and all airlines would expect to call on staff to work extra hours above and beyond what they are rostered for during those peak times. The work-to-rule means pilots will refuse to do that. Donal Moriarty, Aer Lingus’s chief corporate affairs officer, has said it has had to make the decisions on which flights to axe early because the work-to-rule would have otherwise had unpredictable consequences, including last-minute flight cancellations.

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What is Aer Lingus’ strategy?

Aer Lingus management will be hoping it will be able to ride out the storm for as long as possible without disrupting, too many of its passengers. If it can do that, then that weakens the hand of the pilots’ union in any subsequent negotiation. Ialpa, for its part, will be hoping they can cause a significant level of disruption to the plans of Aer Lingus management, and as a result force it back to the table with a significantly weakened hand.

Could I be moved to a different flight on the same day?

According to travel writer and owner of the travel extra magazine Eoghan Corry, Aer Lingus is – in the first instance – looking to consolidate flights on busy short haul routes. So if they have four flights a day going to a particular airport in the UK, they might look at cutting that to three flights. That would free up one of its aircraft and its crew to service another airport.

Aer Lingus would then seek to put all of the passengers on the cancelled flight on other flights heading to the same airport on the same day. While that would represent a huge inconvenience for many passengers, it would avoid the nightmare scenario of having to cancel flights to a particular destination entirely leaving passengers plans in disarray and making the logistics of getting them either to their destination or home from their destination all the more difficult.

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How will they fit four plane loads of people on to three planes?

Well, the load factor on Aer Lingus planes has never been anywhere near Ryanair’s so those busy routes frequently have empty seats. They will also be able to draw on support from BA, Vueling and Iberia. Aviation sources say there is good capacity among the sister airlines but Aer Lingus is saying there isn’t.

When is the industrial dispute likely to end?

That is something else we can’t answer however Corry says he does not think “it will last much more than a week before Aer Lingus management and Ialpa go back into talks. Right now Ialpa don’t know how much damage they can inflict and management don’t know how well they can cope. Once they both know what the cost of the work-to-rule will be, the talks will start.”

Have we been here before?

In 2003, the then head of Aer Lingus Wille Walsh faced down the pilots over a similar work-to-rule and shut down operations which forced the union back to the negotiating table fairly quickly but it is a very risky strategy that could end up costing the airline dearly.

If my flight is cancelled due to industrial action, what are my rights?

The airline has clear obligations to all its passengers under EU directive 261. If you are travelling to another country and your outbound flight is cancelled then Aer Lingus will have to offer a refund or a rerouting on the next available flight or at a later time of your choosing.

And what happens if I am overseas and due to come home on a cancelled flight?

You have the same rights under EU Regulation 261 to a refund or a rerouting on the next available flight or at a later time of your choosing.

The airline also has an obligation to get their passengers home and take care of them overseas until they are in a position to do so.

That means passengers are legally entitled to meals and refreshments while stranded and if necessary, it will have to cover the cost of hotel accommodation and transport between the hotel and the airport.

And will the airline sort out my accommodation and my food?

It might but more probably it won’t. If you’re overseas and the airline does not provide the care and assistance it is supposed to, you will have to make your own reasonable arrangements.

The definition of reasonable is loose but people who stay in a modestly-priced hotel and eat in modestly-priced restaurants while waiting for the industrial action to end, will be able to claim that money back. It is incredibly important to retain all receipts because they will be needed to make the claim.

And do I send the receipts to the airline?

It is important that you send copies (it is very important the original documentation is never sent in case it goes missing) of all receipts to Aer Lingus.

Submissions should also include booking references, passenger names, original and new flight details. If you do not get your money back in a reasonable time frame – four weeks say – contact the Irish Aviation Authority.

And can I be compensated?

There is a good chance you can expect compensation. While strikes by baggage handlers or air traffic controllers are considered extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of Aer Lingus, internal industrial action is not, which means compensation due under EU regulations must be paid.

The amount of compensation payable depends on the distance of the flight. If the flight is classed as short haul, the amount payable is €250 per person. It is €400 for a medium-haul flight and €600 per person for long haul.

To give you a sense of the distances, Dublin to Paris is short haul, Dublin to Barcelona is medium haul and Dublin to New York is long haul.

So compensation is certain right?

No, there might be a fly in the ointment. Corry says it is likely that Aer Lingus would contest its obligations under EU directive 261 to pay compensation to passengers who have had flights delayed or cancelled in the courts on the basis that it had taken all the steps it could to avoid the dispute including using all the mechanisms of the Workplace Relations Commission.

“It will all come down to the cost but they certainly have the option of contesting EU 261 in court and there’s no shortage of barristers who put their wig on and stand up and argue their case. Whether they win or not I can’t say but the legal wrangling could take three or four years.”

And will the airline cover the cost of the hotel accommodation lost?

No. But some travel insurance holidays might cover travel disruption. A great many do not so you would need to check the terms and conditions carefully.