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Sunday 18 February 2018

Aer Lingus pilots on course to strike


ALMOST all of Aer Lingus's flight schedule from Tuesday onwards is under threat from a pilots' dispute that threatens to disrupt the plans of 30,000 travellers.

However, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar told the Sunday Independent he had no plans to intervene as he had nothing to bring to the table.

"Ultimately, it's a dispute between the pilots and management that can only be resolved by themselves.

"The Government's mediation and conciliation service remains available to them in the form of the LRC (Labour Relations Commission)," Mr Varadkar said.

"Talks should resume and passengers should not be inconvenienced," he added.

Key airline staff were meeting this weekend to try to draw up contingency plans after talks collapsed at the LRC early yesterday morning.

But the airline has conceded it may not be able to operate its full schedule.

Last night, an Aer Lingus spokesman said: "At this point in time we cannot be certain that we will be able to operate our schedule."

The airline said the services that would not be affected by any dispute should one take place included Aer Lingus's regional routes, the Washington-Madrid service, and flights to and from Belfast International Airport.

Passengers due to travel on Tuesday, when pilots are due to begin industrial action, or Wednesday can apply to get their money back online or change their flight date for free.

"Aer Lingus received notice earlier this week from the pilot's trade union IALPA/ Impact of their intention to take industrial action commencing Tuesday June 7. We realise that this is extremely disruptive for our customers," said the spokesman.

"We have activated our change-for-free facility for customers who have a booking to travel on Tuesday June 7 or Wednesday June 8."

Customers who wish to change their booking to a later or earlier date of travel may do so free of charge and customers who cancel bookings for those days will receive a full refund. Both the airline and Impact indicated that there were no immediate plans to resume the talks.

The airline spokesman added that the dispute was taking place with " appalling timing" and, while a series of operational meetings to draw up contingency plans were planned, he admitted that options such as bringing in extra aircraft and crews were limited because of the busy time of year.

Impact said that while considerable progress had been made, talks broke down on the longer-term issues around roster arrangements.

Consumers' Association chief Dermott Jewell said that passengers were being left high and dry: "This situation puts prepaid consumers' arrangements, budget holidays and, in certain cases, jobs in turmoil."

Sunday Independent

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