Aer Lingus and unions in talks to avert chaos
MORE than 25,000 airline passengers were last night hoping that a planned strike at Aer Lingus due to begin tomorrow morning will be called off.
Unions and management at the airline were locked into last-minute talks to avert the strike which would shut down hundreds of the airline's services to the US and Europe and affect up to 30,000 passengers a day if it went ahead.
And the company last night said that "thousands" of travellers had already cancelled or changed flights because of the threatened industrial action.
It is understood that up to 3,000 people have changed their travel plans, fearing that threatened strike action by the Irish Airline Pilots Association (IALPA) will go ahead, forcing the airline to ground up to 150 planes from Dublin.
IALPA, which is the pilots' branch of the Impact trade union, said the dispute centred on a shortage of pilots in the company.
It claims that rosters were chaotic last summer, with pilots regularly forced to work six out of seven days.
The company says it has hired agency staff to make up numbers, and it claims that the pilots are objecting to new rules that alter leave arrangements and the notice they are given about future working hours.
Management and pilots yesterday accepted an invitation to attend the Labour Relations Commission after discussions collapsed in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Tens of thousands of passengers flying from Dublin, Shannon and Cork face travel chaos from tomorrow unless there is a breakthrough.
Up to 30,000 people travel with Aer Lingus every day.
Pilots at Belfast and Gatwick have also balloted for industrial action, and may serve notice on the company unless agreement is reached.
"We are still unsure what will happen," an Aer Lingus spokesman said last night.
He added that flights from Belfast International Airport, the Washington-Madrid service as well as the regional flights operated by the company in the UK would not be affected.
Customers can change flights scheduled between Tuesday and Friday free of charge on www.aerlingus.com.
If agreement cannot be reached, pilots based in Cork and Dublin airports will not report for duty until an hour later than their rostered report times from tomorrow. They will also refuse to work on rostered free days or annual leave days.
•UP to 170 jobs will be on the line when the Cabinet decides the future of Galway airport tomorrow.
The airport desperately needs €1.7m in funding and management have warned that without financial support from the Exchequer the airport will close.
But with little room to manoeuvre as a result of crippling cuts in departmental budgets, the West is bracing itself for the worst when Transport Minister Leo Varadkar makes his recommendations to tomorrow's cabinet meeting.
A total of 62 people are directly employed at Galway airport, but up to 170 jobs -- including positions in aircraft maintenance, commercial helicopter charter, car hire etc -- are based at the facility on the outskirts of Galway city.
Now Varadkar can show what he's made of