The sale of Aer Lingus flights comes ahead of pilot industrial action

The airline said the pilots’ action – a work-to-rule, starting on June 26 – will inevitably result in disruption for holidaymakers in the coming weeks and months.

Angela Walsh, chair of the Irish Travel Agents Association, said bookings on the airline were down “20-30% across the board” in the past day, whether from travel agents or the public.

The airline typically carries more than 40,000 passengers per day in the summer. Strikes could cause chaos in the aviation sector across the continent in the run-up to the peak summer weeks.

Ms Walsh described the move by pilots to work on the supremacy from midnight next Wednesday as “very strategic and effective”.

“What we see is that people are waiting to book,” she said, adding:

It is the uncertainty that is the biggest problem.

“People don’t want to get caught up in this.

‘And people don’t realize how disruptive ‘work-to-rule’ can be.

What is ‘work-to-rule’ and how can it disrupt flight?

Work-to-rule is a form of industrial action in which employees adhere very strictly to published schedules, without allowing overtime or working outside official hours.

This can be a particular problem for an airline during the busy summer months, given the unpredictable nature of international travel schedules.

The Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) handed Aer Lingus a notice of industrial action on Tuesday afternoon in an escalation of their dispute over pay increases.

Ialpa and the airline are at loggerheads over a new pilot pay deal, with the union demanding the equivalent of a 23.8% increase, contrary to a Labor Court recommendation made last month for a pay increase of 9.5%.

Sources from both unions and airlines said the move could have a particularly damaging effect on an airline during peak summer as “the company is dependent on the goodwill and flexibility of both pilots and cabin crew”, in the words of one source.

“Without that, they will have capacity issues,” she added.

Aer Lingus said it was “assessing the impact” of the ongoing action.

“This action will have a completely unnecessary impact on customers traveling in the coming weeks, during the peak family season,” a spokesperson said, adding that the action will “have a significant impact on our flight schedules”.

“We will do everything we can to minimize the impact on customers,” the spokesperson said.

“However, it is inevitable that there will be disruptions as a result of this strike and we will communicate any changes, delays or cancellations to affected customers as soon as possible.”

The airline did not answer a question about the extent to which the announced action has already had an impact on its activities.

The government called for action

In the Dáil, the Government was urged to step in and become a “broker” in resolving issues between the two sides, to avoid significant disruption to the festive season.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said frustration among Aer Lingus pilots has been growing for some time.

“Aer Lingus has failed to deliver pay and benefits improvements comparable to peers at British Airways and Lufthansa,” Ms McDonald told the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions.

The airline must work again with the pilots’ union, sit down at the negotiating table again and reach a fair deal.

She added that the government “needs to be more assertive” and “become a broker and have a positive influence in solving this.”

Aer Lingus pilots say they have not received a pay rise since 2019 and are aiming for a 24% increase, in line with the spike in inflation at the time.

Aer Lingus previously agreed to a 9.5% pay increase as recommended by the Labor Court last month.

‘Demands are unsustainable’ — Aer Lingus

The airline has described pilot demands as “unsustainable” and said it would increase the pay package of its highest-paid captains to €350,000 a year.

Daniel Langan, spokesman for Ialpa, which represents 700 of Aer Lingus’s 800 pilots, said “time is of the essence” as things stand when it comes to striking a deal between the airline and the union.

“No pilot wants to work to rule. Many see Aer Lingus as their career and have had a long association with it,” he said.

However, there was no word on Thursday evening about possible new talks at the Workplace Relations Commission.

Mr Langan said the union’s negotiating team cannot be relieved of flying duties before the end of this week due to a current pilot shortage.