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Aer Lingus cancels 120 flights on June 29th following Ialpa strike



Aer Lingus cancels 120 flights on June 29th following Ialpa strike

Aer Lingus has cancelled 120 flights on Saturday, June 29th following the announcement on Friday of an eight-hour strike that day by members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa). The airline said this will affect about 15,000 customers on short-haul services. It brings to over 240 the number of flights affected by the Ialpa industrial action.

“Aer Lingus has re-timed long-haul services on both June 28th and 29th June in order to avoid cancellation of these services,” it said on Saturday.

“Aer Lingus is automatically rebooking some customers on to alternative flights and has begun e-mailing all other customers informing them of the cancellations and advising them of their options: to change their flight for free, to request a refund or to request a voucher.”

Aer Lingus Regional flights, operated by Emerald Airlines, are unaffected by IALPA’s industrial action and will operate as scheduled, it added.

On Friday members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) told the company that they would halt work from 5am to 1pm on Saturday, June 29th.

Their move came just an hour after Aer Lingus’s announcement that it would cancel 124 flights over five days from Wednesday to contain the impact of a strict and open-ended work to rule that Ialpa has announced will begin on that day in its ongoing campaign for a 23.88 per cent pay increase.

On Saturday, Aer Lingus warned pilots that they could be held personally liable for any losses to the airline if they fail to work their rosters before they begin industrial action on Wednesday. A letter from Adrian Dunne, the carrier’s chief operations officer, to pilots says the company expects them to work their live rosters, including any requested changes, up to 12:01am on Wednesday when their industrial action begins.

He adds that the company will regard any pilot who does not do so as taking part in unofficial industrial action and warns that “individuals who participate in this kind of behaviour may be held personally liable for any losses arising”.

Irish law allows workers to strike or take any industrial action only after they have followed procedures that include voting for the proposal in a secret ballot and notifying their employers at least seven days in advance.

Any action outside those rules is dubbed “unofficial” and companies can hold unions or individual workers liable for any losses sustained as a result.

From next Wednesday morning, pilots will refuse to work outside their hours or comply with changes to their rosters, removing all flexibility and hindering Aer Lingus’s operations at its busiest time of year.

The routes affected on June 29th include Dublin-New York JFK and Cork-Heathrow, along with flights from the Republic’s capital to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Rome, Frankfurt, Geneva, Manchester, Munich, Vienna, Hamburg, Lyons, Düsseldorf and Birmingham.

Ialpa president Captain Mark Tighe accused Aer Lingus of escalating the dispute through a “campaign of antagonism” against union members.

That included a threat to take High Court action against him and other union executive members “for alleged unlawful conduct” over a claimed increase in illness among pilots. “Ialpa refutes this allegation in the strongest terms,” Capt Tighe said.

A company pilot-sickness review body has been contacting members individually, something their union regards as threatening behaviour, according to its president.

He added that Aer Lingus had threatened to terminate all its agreements with the pilots’ union as those work practices were no longer compatible with the airline’s business.

Capt Tighe argued that the scale of next week’s cancellations showed the extent to which the carrier relied on pilots’ goodwill and flexibility.

“We go above and beyond to provide a good service to customers,” he added.

Ialpa’s work to rule leaves Aer Lingus without the flexibility in pilot rosters it needs to operate its full holiday-season schedule.

The airline maintains that the cancellations are designed to preserve as many flights as possible and to minimise the risk of last-minute disruption to services.

On Friday, Aer Lingus condemned the union for inflicting “further pain” on customers by announcing the eight-hour strike.

“Ialpa’s decision is clearly designed to inflict maximum damage on passengers’’s travel plans at the peak of the holiday season,” said the airline.

However, Capt Tighe argued that the dispute would not have reached this point if Aer Lingus had restarted negotiations with Ialpa instead of threatening to cut its terms and conditions. “We never wanted it to come to this and we have made it clear that passengers are very important to us pilots,” he said.

However, Donal Moriarty, Aer Lingus’s chief corporate affairs officer, said the company was seeking a meeting with the union next week.

Aer Lingus is offering all passengers who have booked flights between Wednesday, June 26th, and Tuesday, July 2nd, several options, including cancelling their trips and taking cash or voucher refunds, or altering their booking for free.

It has been contacting affected customers directly with details of cancellations and flight changes since early on Friday. Aer Lingus predicted that the process would will continue into Saturday.

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