Father-son Euros reunion hit by airline dispute

Adam Courtliff and father at football stadium
Adam Courtliff (right) and his father last met at the Carabao Cup final in England earlier this year [Adam Courtliff ]

A man who will miss a reunion with his father at the European Championships in Germany has criticised Aer Lingus for "radio silence" after his flight was cancelled.

Adam Courtliff, who is from Manchester and lives in Belfast, hoped to meet up with his father, who is travelling from Saudi Arabia.

He said the pair meet once or twice a year and planned to watch England's last-16 match in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday.

Mr Courtliff was travelling with Aer Lingus from Dublin, but the airline's pilots have begun industrial action over pay.

Members of the Irish Air Line Pilot's Association (IALPA) started an indefinite work-to-rule at midnight on Wednesday.

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

Separate meetings on Tuesday at the Labour Court in Dublin involving the IALPA and Aer Lingus failed to reach a resolution.

The IALPA has accepted an invitation to talks with Aer Lingus on Thursday, with industrial action to continue in the meantime.

The trade union is calling for a 24% pay rise for members.

England Euros plan 'scuppered'

Adam Courtliff, 30, said his travel to Germany was "not just about the game".

He told BBC News NI that Aer Lingus e-mailed him on Sunday to say they would be in contact within 24 hours.

"I think this could have been managed a lot better, I was told I would get a refund or different travel plans within 24 hours."

However, he continued: "I've not heard anything since. I've not got time to sit on hold for three or four hours.

"It's quite poor of them to say they'd be in contact and then nothing.

"It’s on Aer Lingus really, to up their game and get communication better than what it has been."

The England supporter said he had priced alternative travel arrangements but they were out of his budget and would require him to fly via Edinburgh and spend many hours in the airport there.

After securing tickets in the Euros 2024 ballot, Mr Courtliff said he "felt like the stars aligned" for a once in a lifetime experience, but that has now "been scuppered".

"It's disappointing, it's hurting, I'm sure there's many others in my position," he added.

What are passengers saying?

David Falconer
Choir director David Falconer says the strike has disrupted several family holidays [BBC]

The director of music at St George's Church in Belfast said the strike had been "devastating" for his choir group.

Forty-nine boys and men were due to travel from Dublin to Berlin on Friday to perform a series of concerts, but they were told on Saturday that the flight was cancelled.

"For the choir it's bit devastating of course, a lot of hard work has gone into it," he said.

However, it is "more devastating" for the entourage, he said.

"The parents and family who were flying to go along with them, who had maybe booked through Ryanair and Lufthansa.

"[They had] hotels and events booked and have no reason for cancellation so they are out a lot of money."

He said that it had left many family trips in jeopardy, with one family of six having three boys due to travel with the choir.

'We had a back-up plan'

Six boys in red basketball tracksuits
A Wexford basketball team is uncertain about their return flight from the US [BBC]

Igiehon Elite Academy, a Wexford basketball team was due to head to Newark, New Jersey from Dublin on Wednesday for a basketball tournament and training academy.

Team member Daniel Walsh said: “We had heard about the strikes so we came an hour early.

“There’s 50 or so of us going over for an academy and we’re all on the same flight.

"We did check with the airline, our coach reached out to our flight agent and checked too. Our flight wasn't cancelled, but we had a backup anyway for United Airlines."

The team is returning from New Jersey with Aer Lingus too, but does not know what will happen.

Customers waiting in airport check in
The scene at Dublin Airport early on Wednesday morning [BBC]

Hundreds of flights cancelled

The airline said it was disappointed the Labour Court did not intervene in the dispute but will instead review the matter in July.

"Aer Lingus will continue to focus on minimising the disruption caused to customers by IALPA’s industrial action," it said in a statement.

The airline said it "has made it clear that it remains available for discussions both directly and through the state’s industrial relations framework”.

The total number of flights cancelled as a result of the industrial action, Aer Lingus said, has now risen to 270.

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

It called on IALPA to "consider the damage that its continued industrial action is inflicting upon passengers, the company and the Irish economy”.

A full list of cancelled flights up to and including 2 July can be found on the airline's website.

It said: "The nature of this industrial action may lead to further cancellations and delays and we will communicate directly with impacted customers as soon as possible."

Man in navy football cap
Ronan Sheridan from Cavan was leaving his sister to Dublin Airport [BBC]

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 reports a captain at the top of the scale can be paid about €287,000 (£242,000).

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

IALPA are seeking a 24% pay rise for members it said had not been given a pay uplift since 2019 to reflect inflation.

Its president, Capt Mark Tighe, said Aer Lingus management “have refused to see the reasonableness of our accumulative inflationary pay claim”.

He added an "acceptable offer" would see the industrial action end.

Man with white hair and beard
Irish Air Line Pilots' Association president Mark Tighe [PA Media]

On Tuesday, Taoiseach (prime minister) Simon Harris called for Aer Lingus and IALPA to engage intensively at the Labour Court to avoid "utter chaos" for passengers.

He urged both sides to "dig deep", calling for "compromise, engagement and sitting around a table”.

Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) Micheál Martin said there was "an urgent necessity" to find a resolution.

The public, he added, was being ignored by both sides in the dispute.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland on Wednesday, Irish Finance Minister Michael McGrath said the dispute is "a very serious situation".

"It is very damaging for our economy, for our reputation, for tourism and but more importantly, even than that, just the lives of ordinary people.

"We've listened to spokespersons from both the airline and the pilots saying that they're inviting each other to meetings and yet meetings aren't happening."

Michael McGrath standing in front of microphone
Irish Finance Minister Michael McGrath [PA Media]

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

The airline has said passengers with flights booked between 26 June and 2 July have a number of options available.

Each should be contacted via email or SMS, or through their travel agent.

For customers who have booked directly with Aer Lingus, there is the option to change flights online.

The company said it will waive the fare difference and any change fee if rebooking for a later date.

There is also the option to request a full refund or a refund voucher, which can be redeemed within five years.

Aer Lingus said passengers who booked through a travel agent or third party must contact those companies directly.

"Unfortunately, Aer Lingus is unable to assist directly in these cases," Aer Lingus outlines on its website.