Last ditch bid to avert chaos over strike by pilots
WORRY: Flights may be hit by action tomorrow
LAST ditch talks continued today in a bid to avert air travel chaos for thousands of Aer Lingus passengers tomorrow.
Pilots threatening industrial action from tomorrow and airline management were locked in tough negotiations throughout the night at the Labour Relations Commission in Dublin.
An Aer Lingus spokesman told the Herald early today the talks had been continuing since yesterday evening and continued through the night.
Earlier talks broke down in the early hours of Saturday morning in the row over pilot rosters but resumed at 7pm yesterday.
A spokesman for the Irish Airline Pilots Association said he was confident a solution could be found.
Airline management were concerned industrial actions would spread to Belfast and Gatwick if a solution was not found. Flight crews warned they would begin work an hour late from tomorrow which would cause chaos with flight schedules. Pilots claim there is a severe shortage of pilots at the airline which is forcing pilots to work six days out of seven. The dispute threatens hundreds of the airline's flights to the US and Europe and would affect up to 30,000 passengers a day if it went ahead.
Some 150 aircraft would be grounded in Dublin.
Up to 3,000 travellers have already cancelled or changed flights because of the threatened industrial action. Pilots claim that rosters were chaotic last summer, with pilots regularly forced to work six out of seven days.
Pilots at Belfast and Gatwick have also balloted for industrial action, and may serve notice on the company unless agreement is reached.
Customers can change flights scheduled between Tuesday and Friday free of charge on www.aerlingus.com.
If a solution is not found, pilots will also refuse to work on rostered free days or annual leave days.
Meanwhile, up to 170 jobs at Galway Airport are in jeopardy. The airport desperately needs €1.7m in funding and management have warned that without financial support from the Exchequer the airport will close.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar is due to make his recommendations about its future at tomorrow's cabinet meeting.
A total of 62 people are directly employed at Galway airport, but up to 170 jobs are based at the facility on the outskirts of Galway city.