03 July 2024

Aer Lingus forced to cancel 76 additional flights as pay row rumbles on

03 July 2024

Aer Lingus has said it will cancel 76 additional flights between next Monday and Wednesday as the pay dispute between the airline and the union representing its pilots rumbles on.

It comes as Aer Lingus and the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) are meeting at the Labour Court on Wednesday afternoon.

The talks at the industrial dispute body are the latest attempt to bring the two sides together to hammer out a resolution.

Implementing these cancellations is to enable us to protect as many services as possible for as many of our customers as possible

Aer Lingus said the latest round of flight cancellations is being made “in order to protect as many services as possible from the continuing and highly disruptive impact of Ialpa’s continuing industrial action”.

The airline said customers will be given the option of changing their flight free of charge, or claiming a refund or a voucher.

A spokesman said: “Aer Lingus has had to take the step of cancelling 76 additional flights over the course of Monday 8th July to Wednesday 10th July (inclusive).

“Implementing these cancellations is to enable us to protect as many services as possible for as many of our customers as possible.

“These cancellations will be implemented today, and details will be communicated to impacted customers. Details of the services impacted are set out on the Travel Advisory page of aerlingus.com.

“Customers impacted by these latest cancellations between 8th July and 10th July will be given the option to change their flights for free. They will also be able to claim a refund or voucher.

“These options will be communicated directly to impacted customers as well as travel agents, while the Aer Lingus Travel Advisory page will also have up-to-the minute information on all the options.

“Aer Lingus fully understands the anxiety being experienced by customers given the uncertainty caused by Ialpa’s industrial action and is giving impacted customers as many options as possible.”

After facilitating eight hours of discussions on Monday, the Labour Court decided to use its authority to have a formal meeting on Wednesday, after which it will issue a recommendation.

The meeting got under way on Wednesday afternoon.

Ialpa president Captain Mark Tighe said: “Going in here today to the Labour Court, that Ireland is a small but very successful open economy and while attracting business, it must be acknowledged that business owners who do not protect their employees from inflation in a successful environment are ultimately and in time going to impoverish their employees.

“That will happen from the lowest employees as they slide off the bottom one by one.

“We asked the Labour Court to consider as we go forward, the profitable nature of the company and how a reasonable claim is to protect us all from inflation.”

Going into the talks, Mr Tighe said he is “always hopeful” the matter will be resolved.

He also said that if there is a recommendation arising from the court, the industrial action will still continue.

“The executive in the first instance will consider it and then the members will consider it thereafter,” he added.

Donal Moriarty, the chief corporate affairs officer at Aer Lingus, apologised to customers for the 470 flight cancellations.

“We are trying to communicate as effectively as possible with our customers, giving them the options to rebook, to refund or to rearrange their travel.

“But we do appreciate that this is very disruptive upon them and that’s uppermost in our mind.

“We’d like to go through the process of seeing what the court recommend and address the consequences of that afterwards rather than now.”

He added: “The reason for the cancellations is to build resilience into our schedule, to limit the number of cancellations actually, because without that resilience and that buffer within our operation, there would be more cancellations.

“The nature of the work to rule is cumulative. As rosters age they deteriorate and an unwillingness to accept changes to rosters on a daily basis means that the roster deteriorates over time and that’s what causes the impact in terms of cancellations.”

The meeting is being held a week after Ialpa began an indefinite work-to-rule, resulting in them withdrawing from out-of-hours services.

An eight-hour strike was also held on Saturday, during which hundreds of pilots marched around the airport, holding signs that read “Two years talking, deal now” and “No pilots, no profits”.

The industrial action has resulted in almost 400 flights being cancelled and affected the travel plans tens of thousands of passengers.

The airline admitted the dispute has caused “significant financial and reputational damage”.

Finance Minister Jack Chambers said the industrial dispute has been “incredibly damaging” for the Irish economy.

“I think it has caused enormous disruption to many tourists but also Irish people who were looking forward to that holiday abroad,” he added.

“I think the dispute, up to this point, has been far too entrenched between both sides. I welcome the fact that they’re in a process now in the Labour Court, and hopefully we will get a successful resolution of it.

“But I’d say there’s ongoing concern that, if this persists, it’s going to cause continued damage from a tourism and economic perspective.

“I’d urge both sides to try and resolve their differences through the industrial relations process today.”

The pilots had been seeking a pay increase of 24%, which they say equates to inflation since the last pay rise in 2019.

However, Ialpa said during a meeting with the airline at a hotel last week that it would be willing to consider a lower increase.

But it accused Aer Lingus of not making a similar compromise to move from its offer of 12.25%, without requests for pilots to improve productivity.

If these rounds of talks fail, Ialpa said it will return to consider an escalation of its industrial action.

Aer Lingus has said it will cancel 76 additional flights between next Monday and Wednesday as the pay dispute between the airline and the union representing its pilots rumbles on (Artur Widak/PA) (PA Wire)

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