Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

O'Leary hopes Ryanair planes will help Aer Lingus win roster row

Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus passengers will enjoy a full service this morning after the airline unleashed a dramatic contingency plan following the darkest day in a dispute that has grounded more than 4,000 travellers.

The troubled airline will run a full schedule for the first time this week after hiring cut-price planes from Ryanair and other carriers to end a major stand-off with its cabin crew.

It was forced ask its rival Irish airline for help to save passengers from another day of cancellations and delays because of a row over new rosters.

Aer Lingus has leased four planes and their cabin crews at below-market rates from Ryanair.

Ryanair has an almost 30pc stake in the national carrier and has bid for the company on two occasions.

According to senior aviation sources, a transatlantic aircraft leased at short notice -- complete with maintenance, crew, and insurance -- could cost in the region of €250,000 a day; while a short-haul aircraft could cost €20,000.

One source said it was "suicide", from a cost-efficiency point of view, to lease planes for an extended period of time and stressed that Aer Lingus needed to resolve the row as soon as it can.

Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary accused the cabin crew's union IMPACT of "backtracking" on an agreement last year to increase their flying hours to 850 a year and said Aer Lingus needed to "win" the row quickly.

"If we can help in that process then we will help," he said.

Aer Lingus is expected to continue to pay for hired aircraft to keep a normal service going in the coming weeks by dipping into cash reserves, which are in the region of ?900m.

But this will leave over 100 cabin crew and IMPACT members that it has struck off the payroll without wages and means the dispute is far from over.

The airline made the drastic contingency plans after it cancelled 34 flights to and from Dublin on the worst day of disruption since the row escalated on Monday.

Flights between Dublin and European destinations including London Heathrow, Paris, and Brussels were cancelled as cabin crew continued to refuse to co-operate with changes to rosters.

Over 50 flights have been cancelled and roughly 4,410 passengers affected since management brought in the roster changes last Monday. Transatlantic routes were also hit.

Last night, Aer Lingus assured customers that it will resume normal services today.

IMPACT held an emergency meeting with cabin crew last night after lodging 28 discrimination claims to the Director of the Equality Tribunal on behalf of staff struck off the payroll.

It has asked the tribunal to investigate whether the company's action breaches discrimination laws

However, the union has also asked the Labour Court to intervene and said it will accept its recommendation.

But the airline said it has run out of patience with the union following months of extensive talks and a binding arbitration process.

It said its cabin crew in Belfast and Gatwick had been operating the new rosters for the last few years and they were in line with international practice.

IMPACT cabin crew signed up to an increase in annual flying hours to 850 hours under the airline's ?97m cost-cutting plan last year.

But it insists it has not agreed to the roster changes introduced by management to achieve this.

A Labour Court spokesman said it was keeping the situation "under review".

Hundreds of angry Aer Lingus cabin crew met last night to air their grievances about the way they have been treated by the airline. Over a hundred staff have now been removed from duties and struck off the payroll by management for not adhering to new rosters put in place on Monday.

"I love my job. I just want to be respected," Lisa Mangan, from Lusk said, who was removed from duty on Tuesday for taking an unauthorised tea break.

Today cabin crew members of the IMPACT union and members of the pilots' union, IALPA, will assemble at the Clarion Hotel at Dublin Airport at 11am and march to the main entrance of Terminal 2. They will then move on to Aer Lingus headquarters where they will present a letter listing their grievances to Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller.