Aer Lingus passengers face disruption from June 26th as work to rule announced

Flights likely to be cancelled or delayed as pilots refuse to work overtime or out of contracted hours

Aer Lingus passengers face disruption from next week as a work to rule by pilots will likely see some flights cancelled and others delayed. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Aer Lingus passengers face likely delays and disruption from next week when pilots plan to begin industrial action in their campaign for a 24 per cent pay rise.

The Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) notified Aer Lingus on Tuesday that members based in the Republic will, from a minute past midnight next Wednesday, June 26th, start an indefinite strict work-to-rule policy. Pilots will not work overtime or beyond contracted hours, and will refuse management requests to change their rosters. That limits the airline’s flexibility during what is its busiest time of the year.

Both the company and union agree this will disrupt, delay and even cancel Aer Lingus flights, as pilots and crew are regularly called on to work out of hours to allow the airline address problems that arise routinely, particularly during summer.

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The impact on passengers and on the airline would be “significant”, said Donal Moriarty, the airline’s chief corporate affairs officer. “We are assessing all of that at the moment,” he said, adding that the company would start contacting customers immediately.


He confirmed the carrier was forced to cancel some flights recently when a larger number of pilots than usual were unable to provide cover for out-of-hours duties.

Union sources blamed an existing shortage of pilots in Aer Lingus for that problem. However, Mr Moriarty rejected this saying it was “more than adequately crewed given normal flexibility”.

Ialpa president Capt Mark Tighe said Aer Lingus management needed to change their position quickly on the union’s pay claim if they wanted to prevent the dispute from escalating.

His colleague, Capt Daniel Lanigan, Ialpa’s vice-president for finance, confirmed that the industrial action notice served on the airline reserved the pilots’ right to strike. “We may exercise it if necessary,” he added.

Pilots voted overwhelmingly this week for industrial action, up to and including strike, in a ballot run by the union over three days.

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Both sides say they remain willing to talk, but observers point out that the gap between them remains wide. Pilots are seeking a 23.88 per cent pay rise. They recently rejected increases totalling 9.25 per cent recommended by the Labour Court.

Airline management branded the union’s pay claim as exorbitant saying it would increase some pilots’ pay by more than €50,000 to about €350,000 a year. Ialpa says this is not the case for most of its 800 or so members at the airline, and points out that cadets begin on about €35,000 annually.

Capt Tighe said the increase equalled inflation since pilots’ last pay increase in 2019. “Aer Lingus have increased their profits by 400 per cent to €225 million last year,” he added.

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Aer Lingus responded that its profitability was the lowest in International Airlines Group, of which it is a part along with British Airways and Spain’s Iberia and Vueling.

The airline argued that Ialpa had rejected the findings of three independent processes dealing with pilots’ pay. They included an internal company tribunal that offered a deal worth 12.25 per cent, which other Aer Lingus workers accepted, the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court.

Capt Tighe said pilots were taking action because “management has failed to provide us with a meaningful offer on pay that accounts for inflation” and pilots’ sacrifices during the pandemic.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

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