‘All of the main holiday destinations hit’ – Aer Lingus cancels 120 flights affecting 15,000 customers next Saturday as pilots call strike action

The travel plans of 15,000 customers set to travel with Aer Lingus next Saturday have been thrown into disarray due to an 8-hour strike by pilots.

The airline has cancelled 120 flights next Saturday after the escalation of the industrial action by the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa), which will commence work-to-rule on on Wednesday.

This brings the total number of flights cancelled next week to approximately 220 due to the ongoing industrial action.

Pilots declared a full-scale day of strike action from 5am until 1pm next Saturday in addition to the open-ended work-to-rule.

The list of cancelled flights for next Saturday include “all of the main holiday destinations” such as services bound for Spain, Portugal and Croatia.

Some 15,000 customers on short-haul services will be impacted, with the airline re-timing long-haul services on June 28 and June 29 to avoid cancellation of those flights.

Irish Travel Agents’ Association (ITAA) CEO Clare Dunne described the new list of cancellations as “really bad news for all of the families sitting around the country waiting to go on their holidays.”

Speaking to RTÉ’s Saturday with Colm Ó Mongáin, Ms Dunne said: “As we know, next Saturday is a really, really busy day. It is the first day after the school holidays start, after the primary schools finish up, and all of those families are waiting to go away next Saturday.”

She said Aer Lingus are working on alternative arrangements but it is difficult to source alternative aircraft due to the peak travel season and it is much harder to mitigate the impact of the 8-hour strike than the work-to-rule action.

“They were able to concentrate on the routes that they had multiple flights or on business routes and try to salvage the holiday routes that have now been cancelled for Saturday because it is an all-out strike from 5am until 1pm.”

Ms Dunne said travel agents were working throughout the night and will be working all weekend to re-accommodate customers on alternative flights.

“We have seen the flight prices go up,” she said, adding that customers could be due to receive compensation under EU regulation and from Aer Lingus if their flight is impacted.

“If you do voluntarily cancel your flight, then you will forego your compensation because you have opted to cancel it,” Ms Dunne advised.

She advised holidaymakers to “be patient” as travel agents are currently working to contact all of their customers, starting with those due to travel within the next number of days.

The ITAA is calling for “sense to prevail” and for both parties to get together “and work this out”, she said.

“There is a solution out there, they just need to sit down and find it.”

Customers are being automatically rebooked onto alternative flights and will be contacted by the airline with the options available to them.

"Aer Lingus is automatically rebooking some customers onto alternative flights and has begun emailing 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,” a spokesperson for the airline said.

“The detail of the cancelled flights on June 29 is available on the ‘Travel Advisory’ on the Aer Lingus website at aerlingus.com.

"Aer Lingus Regional flights, operated by Emerald Airlines, are unaffected by IALPA’s industrial action and will operate as scheduled. Aer Lingus Regional flight numbers are in the range EI3000 – EI3999.”

The flights affected include short-haul flights from Dublin to Heathrow, Paris, Amsterdam, Lyons, Berlin, Birmingham, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Rome, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hamburg, Manchester, Munich and Vienna, as well as short-haul flights from Cork to Heathrow.

Earlier estimates were that up to 40,000 passengers will hit by flight cancellations. The airline is to get in touch with passengers and offer a refund or alternative booking.

The pilots are to begin an indefinite work-to-rule from next Wednesday after balloting for industrial action, which means they will not engage in overtime or out-of-hours duties.

Passengers face days of uncertainty and potential travel chaos as one in five flights are at risk of being cancelled.

Pilots, represented by the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa), are seeking a pay increase of 24pc, which they say equates to inflation since the last pay rise in 2019.

Aer Lingus has described the pay demand as unrealistic and said there had been no pay deals in Ireland that delivered such an increase.

The airline has warned it will have to cancel between 10pc and 20pc of its flights every day as the pilots stage action in the pay dispute.

The hospitality sector here has expressed fears that the industrial action will damage businesses across the country over the all-important summer season.

It comes as the Government does not intend to invoke a clause in industrial relations legislation to force the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) and Aer Lingus management to go back to the Labour Court or the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to resolve the pay dispute.

Enterprise Minister Peter Burke will not intervene in the worsening dispute between Aer Lingus.

Mr Burke has appealed to Aer Lingus management and the pilots’ union to resume talks.

“I urge both sides, in the interests of the people of this country, to get around the table and work out an agreement on this issue,” he said.

“Air connectivity is vital for an island nation like ours, and I am conscious that it is a particularly busy time of the year for holidays that people have looked forward to and worked hard for all year.”

Mr Burke has the power under the 1990 Industrial Relations Act to refer a trade dispute – either actual or expected – to the Labour Court or the WRC.

Aer Lingus has offered a 12.25pc pay increase, while last month the Labour Court recommended an interim increase of 9.25pc, which was rejected by the pilots. An independent pilot pay tribunal last year also recommended 12.25pc and a 1.5pc increase in unconsolidated pay.

It is believed the powers have never been invoked by any minister, however. It is also understood that Aer Lingus has not asked the minister to use them.

“The WRC and the Labour Court remain available to the parties to facilitate this necessary engagement, and that is ultimately the framework in which this matter can be resolved,” the minister said.

“Every effort must be made to resolve this dispute and it is vital that both parties act responsibly and re-engage, as recommended by the Labour Court.”

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