HUNDREDS of Aer Lingus cabin crew were picketing Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports as they began their 24-hour strike in a row over rosters.
More than 200 flights and the travel plans of around 30,000 people have been hit by the industrial action.
Senior cabin crew member Maire NiChleirigh - who has worked at the company for 25 years - said that the rosters made life very difficult for people with children.
“The rosters we currently get are very unpredictable, we don’t know more than a couple of weeks in advance what we’ll be doing.
“Even when we do have a roster in front of us, they’re subject to extreme changes,” she said.
“I spoke to a colleague, she checked in for her duty and discovered that within 48-hours she was going to be out of the country for three days.
“She has small children, her husband has had to emigrate for work. That kind of thing is not sustainable,” she said.
Her colleague Killian Brennan added that while nobody wanted to be out on strike, the rosters were causing serious stress for staff.
“It’s very difficult to juggle their responsibilities with their personal lives with the rosters,” he said.
Crew are expected to march to the airline’s headquarters at Dublin Airport to hand a letter of protest to chief executive Christoph Mueller.
Responding to the cabin crew’s action, a spokesman for the airline this morning said: “Aer Lingus cabin crew have some of the best conditions in the country” and he added that the strike should not have gone ahead.
Meanwhile, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said the issue should have been resolved before it got to the point where staff are striking at the start of the busy summer period.
Speaking on Pat Kenny’s Newstalk show, he said: “This matter should have been resolved during the winter period so not to allow passengers to be hijacked during the May bank holiday weekend.”
He continued: “The unions are out of control and think they can hijack the travelling public whenever it suits them.
“Nobody would in any case begrudge the Aer Lingus cabin crew their jobs or terms and conditions but this kind of idea that they are Siberian salt miners being abused by an employer is ludicrous,” he said.
It has been estimated that the strike action will cost Aer Lingus some €10m due to cancellations by passengers.
Representatives of the cabin crew are due to meet with the airline for talks next week, in an attempt to prevent any further action.