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Summer holiday disruption looms as Aer Lingus pilots move towards strikes

Aer Lingus Airbus A320 plane prepares to land at Dublin airport, Ireland, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.
Aer Lingus Airbus A320 plane prepares to land at Dublin airport, Ireland, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. Copyright Peter Morrison/AP
Copyright Peter Morrison/AP
By Eleanor Butler
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The Irish airline is warning of significant travel disruption this summer as pay dispute escalates.


Strikes at Aer Lingus are looking increasingly likely over the coming weeks after an overwhelming majority of pilots voted in favour of industrial action.

The results emerged from a paper ballot organised by the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (IALPA) over the weekend, in which 99% (of the 89% of pilots who voted) supported action, up to and including a strike.

This recent vote comes after a first electronic ballot was completed last week, showing that 98% of respondents were supportive of strikes.

When Aer Lingus contested the reliability of the electronic verdict, the IALPA decided to run another vote.

The airline has since expressed concerns about the rapid timeline of the paper ballot.

The threatened action comes as negotiations over a wage dispute between the pilots' union and Aer Lingus stalled last Thursday. 

Pilots are seeking a 23.8% pay increase, a motion branded as "unsustainable" by the airline.

The union, however, believes the rise is reasonable given the effect of inflation on pay packets, along with the large profits made by Aer Lingus.

Last week, IALPA rejected a Labour Court recommendation that pilots accept a 9.25% lift.

Speaking to Ireland's national broadcaster RTÉ, Donal Moriarty of Aer Lingus said: "IALPA appears to be absolutely determined to inflict the disruption of industrial action on the travelling public this summer."

"Inevitably, if they do, it will involve much disruption for our customers. The challenge at this time of year is that all airlines are busy, not just Aer Lingus, and seeking to re-accommodate passengers on other airlines is difficult."

The timing of any action is still unclear but Aer Lingus has asked IALPA for a 15-day notice period. The minimum legal requirement is seven days.

Aer Lingus has also warned the strike could cost them between €20 million and €25 million a day.

This loss includes the cost of compensating passengers and finding alternative travel plans.

Union president Captain Mark Tighe, meanwhile, has claimed that the second vote is: "An incredible reaffirmation of our mandate for industrial action in pursuit of a meaningful pay offer."

He added: "The effect of Aer Lingus management's intervention last week has served only to further antagonise pilots. They are now more determined than ever."

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