AER Lingus promised no flight disruption this weekend as it issued a dramatic ultimatum to cabin crew: work the new rosters or face the sack.
The drastic message is being couriered in a letter from management to 140 staff as the airline continues to pay for leased aircraft to ensure a full schedule.
It will use its €900m cash reserves to pay for aircraft, which come with their own pilots and cabin crew, from Ryanair and other carriers to ensure a full service while its planes remain on the tarmac.
This means it is paying its own pilots, some of whom earn annual salaries over €250,000, in addition to the leased-in crew -- estimated to cost around €20,000 per short-haul aircraft.
A group of its pilots who are now 'on reserve' turned up for a march yesterday in support of cabin crew, who told the airline they were ready, willing and able to work. But their appeal did little to appease the airline, which gave them one last chance to sign up to the new rosters that would increase their flying hours to 850 a year.
The letter asked them to sign a 'form of undertaking' or enter a disciplinary process that means they could be dismissed. It accused them of failing to comply with contractual obligations.
The move followed a week of flight chaos that affected 4,000 passengers and led to the cancellation of over 50 flights.
"If they refuse, they will enter a process that could result in them being removed from the company," said airline spokesperson Enda Corneille.
It is understood that a handful of cabin crew who refused to work the rosters and were going through the disciplinary process before being struck off the payroll have now signed the letter of undertaking.
IMPACT said the threat to sack staff "was completely at odds" with a message by chief executive Christoph Mueller in newspaper adverts yesterday.
In it, he described the cabin crew as being among the best in the world and deserved appreciation from the company for their flexibility and dedication.
"This apparent attempt to frighten cabin crew into submission and divide a unified group has completely misjudged the mood of cabin crew and, if anything, will make it harder to find a solution to this problem," said a union spokesperson.
The union said it would assist members if they received correspondence from the company and would represent them in any dealings with their "increasingly volatile employer".