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Aer Lingus may use crews from abroad

Talks held with BA and KLM to help passengers

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Aer Lingus is continuing to draw up contingency plans to help the thousands of airline passengers, including many from Ulster, affected by next week's planned pilot strike.

One of the measures being considered by Aer Lingus is using aircraft and crews from abroad, which could help ensure that many holiday-makers will still be able to fly off as scheduled.

It is understood the Irish airline is in negotiation with British Airways and KLM to see if passengers can be accommodated during the two-day strike next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Aer Lingus is also allowing passengers affected by the strike to change their flight free of charge - but the fee for a new flight at this peak time is likely to be considerably higher than the total paid by people who booked flights in advance.

Any passengers who have overpaid are advised to send their booking details to the Aer Lingus Customer Contact Centre, Ground Floor, Head Office Building Dublin Airport and mark the envelope Strike Disruption.

The airline said: "Disrupted passengers who have flight reservations for these dates can change their itinerary dates for free, there will be no charge for any fare differences incurred and no change fee applied to the booking. These passengers can also change the destination of their original booking and no change fee will be applied to the booking. The change booking fee and any fare difference will be waived (where appropriate) from the 'Price' page of the change process."

Refunds are also available.

However passengers will not be reimbursed for additional expenses. This means anyone who has to stay an extra night overseas because of the strike will not be refunded the money for a hotel. Similarly, if passengers miss a connecting flight with another airline because of the strike they are not reimbursed for their financial loss.

Passengers who want to change a booking should use the Aer Lingus website or call the helpline 0870 876 2020.

Alternatively, passengers can re-book flights to European destinations through budget airlines operating out of Belfast. But again this will be at passengers' personal cost.

Updates will be posted on the Aer Lingus website.

Aer Lingus strike: your questions answered

Why has the strike been planned?

A total of 480 Aer Lingus pilots have vowed not to fly in protest at the company's plans to set up a new hub in Belfast. The airline has advertised for 30 new pilots who it is feared will work under "less favourable" conditions than their counterparts in the Republic. Trade Union Impact has accused Aer Lingus of treating pilots in Belfast as "second class citizens".

What is Aer Lingus offering pilots to be recruited for its Belfast operation and how does this compare to pay and conditions in the Republic?

The airline claims that on the early stages of the pay scale at least, pilots in Belfast would be paid higher than those in the Republic. The company says it has not yet decided on pay rates higher up the scale.

Pilots in Belfast will start on £72,000 - the equivalent to starting salaries in the south. But the pay scale will be significantly shorter than the 16-17 point scale in Dublin.

Aer Lingus also said pilots in Belfast would receive a health insurance package. But Belfast-based pilots will not have access to the existing defined benefit pension - instead the company is hoping to establish a contribution scheme for pilots in the north.

More flexible working hours are to be introduced in Belfast. The new arrangements govern issues such as length of working days, times off between regulations and the company's schedule rather than on collective agreements with the union.

For example pilots are allowed to fly no more than 100 hours every 28 days under regulations but the current agreement sets out how these hours should be broken down.

Why do Aer Lingus want these new terms and conditions?

Aer Lingus claims that its rostering arrangements are less flexible than its competitors because agreements on issues like crew levels, days off and rest periods between flights were arranged between management and pilots.

Why does the union oppose the new deal?

The Irish Airline Pilots' Association opposes the establishment of a two-tier system for the north and south of Ireland. The union contends that the overall package in Belfast will be cheaper than that available in the Republic and that in time this could be imposed in Dublin.

Belfast Telegraph


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