A deal to end the costly row involving Aer Lingus cabin crew could be struck within days, it has been claimed.
Airline management and trade union chiefs at Impact agreed to let industrial relations trouble-shooters try to broker a resolution in the damaging dispute over new rosters and senior figures on both sides believe a resolution may be possible by early next week.
Hopes of a breakthrough came after employers' body Ibec and umbrella trade union group Congress intervened with the airline and Impact to chart a way forward.
Aer Lingus said it remained committed to new rosters but would take part in talks with the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) to try to find a "speedy resolution".
Talks between the parties are expected to begin immediately involving LRC chief Kieran Mulvey, with the two sides hopeful of a resolution by early next week. Impact said they have always sought a mediator to end the row.
"Our position is that throughout this we've been looking for a third party intervention - it's probably the only way of breaking the logjam," a spokesman said.
"So we're happy that that's happened, so it's a question of going in and seeing what comes out the other end."
Despite the potential breakthrough, Aer Lingus grounded another 12 flights to European and UK destinations, with around 10 expected to be cancelled on Saturday. The airline said affected customers were being alerted up to five days before their departure date.
Impact said 220 workers have so far been removed from the payroll for failing to abide by the new rosters. Aer Lingus has put the number at 215 and said disciplinary letters are being sent out on a phased basis to those who do not comply with the new working arrangements.
The union maintains the rosters are controversial because working times can be changed by three hours on the day of duty, making it impossible to plan childcare; the introduction of "double" shifts and the removal of meal breaks from European flights.