Aer Lingus says pay row will hit hiring plans for pilots

Airline meets trade union as it says diversion of new planes to other IAG airlines could see it hire 80 fewer pilots

The loss of new aircraft to Aer Lingus will force the airline to cut plans to hire 80 new pilots and reduce potential promotions by 40, the airline’s management has said.

Aer Lingus is due to meet the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) trade union on Wednesday in an attempt to end a pay row that the carrier claims ultimately threatens the delivery of six new Airbus jets.

The loss of the aircraft would force Aer Lingus to drop plans to hire 80 pilots and cut potential new captains’ posts by 40, Adrian Dunne, its chief operations officer says in an internal letter.

“This will also have a cascading effect on other associated staff groups,” Mr Dunne says.

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Ialpa argues that it supports growth but not at the cost of compensating pilots already employed by the airline for the soaring inflation of the last three years, or their efforts in seeing the airline through pandemic travel restrictions.

The union has told members that expansion and the acquisition of new aircraft are ultimately matters for management.

Pilots are seeking salary increases of more than 20 per cent. They say their wages last rose in 2019, since then the cost of living has ballooned by 19 per cent and that salaries have not kept pace with those of other European airlines.

They also point out that rate reductions and the loss of flying allowances meant that many endured pay cuts of 70 per cent when Government pandemic curbs grounded the airline in 2020.

Management disputes these points and says that other staff groups have accepted increases of 12.25 per cent offered by an internal company pay tribunal.

That tribunal offered pilots 8.5 per cent, as the increase was discounted to take into account the cost of extra summer leave flexibility agreed with the company in 2019. Ialpa members rejected the offer in a ballot earlier this year.

Aer Lingus owner, International Airlines Group (IAG), has said it will divert the new Airbus A321XLR aircraft to its other carriers if the Irish airline’s pilots do not rein in pay demands.

Two of these aircraft are due for delivery this year. The group has put on hold plans to paint the first, due to begin flying in September, in Aer Lingus colours but a decision must be made on this by April 28th.

Consequently, both sides agreed to meet on Wednesday in advance of a scheduled Labour Court hearing on April 22nd in an attempt to resolve the dispute in time for a decision on painting the first aircraft.

IAG, which also owns British Airways, Iberia and Vueling, says it cannot invest in Aer Lingus if costs rise and hit returns to the group and its shareholders.

Aer Lingus will be one of the first airlines to fly the “extra-long range” Airbus A321XLR, designed to radically cut the cost of long-haul trips. The airline says the aircraft will open new opportunities on routes from the Republic to North America, where Aer Lingus believes it has most scope for expansion.

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