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Christmas air chaos alert over strike vote

CHRISTMAS travel plans could be massively disrupted by the threat of strike action at Aer Lingus.

Passengers face an uncertain period after airline cabin crew voted for industrial action.

The vote was prompted by skirmishing over rosters and the fall-out from the closure of an Aer Lingus cabin crew base at Shannon.

The cabin staff are members of the IMPACT union and voted 91pc favour of action in a ballot. The union will make its decision in the coming days over its next step.


An IMPACT spokesman described a strike as "a distinct possibility".

It is the latest in a series of dramatic strike threats from various Aer Lingus employee groups. Last August, Aer Lingus pilots made noises about striking in support of Aer Arann pilots protesting over pay.

In June, pilots threatened action over increments, with union sources warning of strikes over crucial summer travel period.

October 2012 also saw unions threatening to shut down the airline over pensions. A planned two-hour shut down of Aer Lingus in November 2012 was called off at the last minute.

The long-running dispute between staff and Aer Lingus management centres on the huge hole in the airline's pension fund.

Staff at the former state airline are part of a joint pension scheme with airport operator DAA. The scheme has a deficit of close to €780m, which means that it simply cannot pay out expected pension benefits unless it is dramatically restructured.

Shares in the airline fell as much as 9pc yesterday. The bulk of the share price falls came before news of the strike ballot emerged. The key driver of the sell-off was a profit warning from rival Ryanair, which indicated weaker volumes in the European markets.