Aer Lingus pilots stage eight-hour work stoppage

A number of striking Aer Lingus pilots standing outside Dublin airport holding placards
Pilots held banners as they marched at Dublin Airport on Saturday morning [PA Media]

Hundreds of striking Aer Lingus pilots have marched at Dublin Airport as part of an ongoing dispute with the airline over pay.

The eight-hour strike began at 05:00 local time and ended at 13:00.

The pilots, in full uniform, passed the airline’s head office before setting up a picket line at the entrance to the airport for a time.

Aer Lingus cancelled 120 flights on Saturday with about 17,000 passengers affected and apologised for the disruption.

The Irish Airline Pilots' Association (Ialpa) previously called for a 24% pay rise for members, and pilots began a work-to-rule on Wednesday.

Ialpa president Captain Mark Tighe said the striking pilots have "clearly demonstrated their solidarity, their strength [and] their togetherness".

"We've seen the company cancel up to 20% of flights, we find that astounding actually," Cpt Tighe told BBC News NI.

He said a "very small number" of pilots work on their scheduled days off, as they are often tired and want to spend time with their families.

"The work-to-rule would cause some disruption but we wouldn't expect it to be anything like this, so questions need to asked," he said.

A number of striking Aer Lingus pilots standing outside Dublin airport holding placards
The pilots passed the airline’s head office before setting up a picket [PA Media]

Aer Lingus has now cancelled almost 400 flights up until 7 July as a result of the indefinite work-to-rule and strike action by pilots.

The Republic of Ireland’s Labour Court has invited both parties to a meeting on Monday to review the current situation.

Cpt Tighe said the union was "considering an escalation" before the invitation, but he was hopeful the court would be able to assist in the dispute.

He added the union's mandate is clear and that pilots will not accept work practice changes in exchange for more pay.

"The pilots have clearly stated to us that they are not prepared to sell working conditions to finance a pay increase," he said.

"They're not going to pay for a pay increase, particularly when their claim was a reasonable one of inflation to protect their pay."

What have pilots said?

Chloe Halpin on strike
Newly-hired Chloe Halpin says she is paid less than her colleagues [RTÉ]

On the picket line, Cpt Gareth Hanna said strike action was the "last thing" pilots want.

"Nobody wants passengers to be put out," he told Irish broadcaster RTÉ.

Also on strike, First Officer Chloe Halpin called for reform of the company's pay structure.

"I'm new to Aer Lingus and I'm actually on 10% less pay than our other colleagues," she said.

"We should only have one pay scale in Aer Lingus, that's why I'm here."

What has Aer Lingus said?

Aer Lingus’s communications director Olivia Buckley apologised to customers for the disruption.

“It’s been damaging from a reputational point of view for the airline and also from a financial point of view,” she told RTÉ.

Ongoing industrial action is “making it increasingly difficult” to find a resolution to the dispute, she added.

The Aer Lingus website has a list of flights disrupted because of the strike.

The website states that if your flight is affected, you will be contacted by them directly by email or SMS message.

Or, if you booked through a travel agent, they will contact you to advise you of your options.

Aer Lingus pilots marching at Dublin airport as part of a dispute over pay
The strike action ended at 13:00 on Saturday [PA Media]

Will my Belfast flight be affected?

The Aer Lingus website said Aer Lingus Regional services to and from Belfast and Great Britain, operated by Emerald Airlines, will not be affected by any industrial relations action and will operate as scheduled.

Aer Lingus Regional flight numbers are EI 3000 – EI 3999.

Striking Aer Lingus pilots march around Dublin Airport
Members of Ialpa have marched at Dublin airport [PA Media]

What do I do if my flight is cancelled?

The airline has said passengers with flights booked between now and 7 July have a number of options available.

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 service fees 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 say passengers who booked through third party must contact those companies directly.

Why do the pilots want a pay rise?

 IALPA President Capt Mark Tighe speaking
On Thursday afternoon, IALPA President Capt Mark Tighe confirmed talks had “broken down" [PA Media]

Capt Mark Tighe previously said that the 24% increase is a "cumulative figure of inflation from 2019, our last pay rise".

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."

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.

Three Aer Lingus staff at the check in desks at Dublin airport. There are no passengers to be seen anywhere due to pilots's strike
Aer Lingus said 120 flights were cancelled at Irish airports, including Dublin, on Saturday [PA Media]

How did we get here?

This has been a long-running dispute over pay, and there have been a lot of announcements.

But here are some of the key things that have happened so far this week:

  • 25 June 2024 - Separate meetings between Ireland's Labour Court and Aer Lingus and the Ialpa

  • 26 June 2024 - Pilots' indefinite work-to-rule begins. (The work-to-rule means not working overtime or carrying out any other out-of-hours duties)

  • 26 June 2024 - The airline issues an invitation for talks to Ialpa on Wednesday after pilots began their work-to-rule

  • 28 June 2024 - Aer Lingus confirms it is cancelling a further 122 flights, saying that due to the “indefinite nature” of Ialpa pilots’ industrial action it “must cancel” additional flights up to 7 July

  • 29 June 2024 - Pilots take part in eight hours of strike action