More flights cancelled as Aer Lingus dispute continues

Green and white Plane with Aer Lingus written across it with three plane tail wings in the background that each have the Aer Lingus shamrock logo on them
Aer Lingus have now cancelled almost 400 flights [Getty Images]

Aer Lingus has confirmed it is cancelling a further 122 flights up until 7 July due to the ongoing industrial action by pilots.

The airline has now cancelled almost 400 flights as a result of an indefinite work-to-rule and strike action by pilots.

The work-to-rule means not working over time or carrying out any other out-of-hours duties.

An eight-hour strike from 05:00 -13:00 local time is planned for Saturday.

Aer Lingus said that due to the “indefinite nature” of Irish Air Line Pilots' Association pilots’ industrial action it “must cancel” additional flights up to 7 July.

Irish broadcaster RTÉ had reported that the recommendation for an additional strike was made by IALPA on Thursday.

However, on Friday afternoon, Capt Mark Tighe, president of the union, said that Ireland's Labour Court has invited both parties in the dispute to return to them on Monday afternoon.

"We are in the process of discussing that and that of course would have relevance to whether or not we escalate the industrial action," he told Radio Ulster's Evening Extra programme.

"I’m hoping now that they have noted the seriousness of the situation and that they’ll be able to apply their considerable expertise."

Talks between it and Aer Lingus to resolve the ongoing pay dispute broke down without a resolution on Thursday.

School pupils 'slept on floor'

A group of students and teachers from Shimna Integrated School in County Down who were retuning from a trip to Berlin had their flight home cancelled while they were in the airport.

Teacher Luke McWatters, said that their 21:45 flight on Thursday was initially showing as delayed and then, more than two hours after the flight was initially due to take off, they were told it was cancelled.

“Trying to ring through to Aer Lingus I was on three different calls to three different agents who, every time I got to a certain way through said: ‘Because you’re a group we can’t do anything for you -you have to contact group Aer Lingus who don’t open until 9am’.”

Mr McWatters told the BBC’s Evening Extra programme that he felt they had been “left high and dry”, with no offer of accommodation or food.

Luke Watters is standing in an airport, leaning against a pillar, wearing a cream fleece. Some people can be seeing queuing in the background
Luke McWatters said support from the airline "fell short" of what was expected [Luke McWatters]

He said the group slept on the airport floor.

Mr McWatters said they were offered an alternative flight on 1 July.

“At that stage we made the call to try other airlines and split ourselves up as a group,” he added.

Half of the group travelled to Edinburgh, while the other half caught a flight to Poland, with both groups booked on flights back to Ireland on Friday.

Mr McWatters said that the support for Aer Lingus had “fallen very short of what you would expect from a major airline dealing with children”.

The BBC has contacted Aer Lingus for a response.

'Reasonable pay claim'

Capt Tighe said "passengers are extremely dear to us as pilots. Management don’t meet you, we do every day.

"We’ve been left in a position where our pay is being eroded and all we’re looking to do is maintain our pay."

Speaking to BBC News NI's Good Morning Ulster programme on Friday, Capt Tighe said in an effort to resolve the dispute, the union had said it would accept less than an inflationary rise.

"We don’t believe anybody should be getting less than inflation, but yesterday in an effort to resolve this, we said we would accept less than inflation."

However, he added: "We believe inflation is a very reasonable claim in this current time."

An image of Mark Tighe from the shoulders up
IALPA President Capt Mark Tighe said the Labour Court has invited both sides to further discussions on Monday [PA Media]

Additional strike action?

IALPA had recommended to trade union Fórsa that the additional strike should be longer than the action planned for Saturday, RTÉ has reported.

If sanctioned, Fórsa will have to give seven days’ notice to Aer Lingus before pilots can stop work.

Aer Lingus has described the potential of further strike action as "entirely inappropriate given the request of the Labour Court this week that the dispute should not be escalated".

Donal Moriarty, Aer Lingus' chief corporate affairs officer, said the airline is "willing to go back to the Labour Court on a formal joint referral basis".

He said Aer Lingus has encouraged IALPA and Fórsa to "agree to this step".

How many Aer Lingus flights have been cancelled?

All Aer Lingus UK regional flights, operated by Emerald Airlines, and Aer Lingus UK transatlantic flights to and from Manchester will operate as scheduled.

A full list of cancelled flights can be found on the airline's website.

How much are Aer Lingus pilots paid?

Co-pilots can start out at about €36,000 (£30,400), with packages increasing based on actual flying hours.

Irish broadcaster RTÉ has reported a captain at the top of the scale can be paid about €287,000 (£242,000).

Capt Mark Tighe explained on Thursday that this can take up to 26 years.

There are differences for pilots depending on whether flights are short or long-haul.

What do I do if my Aer Lingus flight is cancelled?

The airline has said passengers with flights booked up to 7 July have a number of options available.

Aer Lingus will contact passengers who have had their flight cancelled directly via SMS, email or through their travel agent to advise them of their options.

These options include changing the date of your booking free of charge, applying for a refund voucher for future travel or a refund for the full value of your flight.

If a passenger is scheduled to travel up until 7 July but their flight has not been cancelled, they can also change their booking free of charge or apply for a refund voucher for future travel.

"We understand the frustration you must be feeling right now. Our teams are working hard to minimise disruption as much as possible," Aer Lingus said.