Aer Lingus is threatening to shift its operations from Dublin to Gatwick and Belfast after talks to cut pilots’ wages broke down. The move would also result in hundreds of further compulsory redundancies at the struggling Irish carrier.
Christoph Mueller, the new Aer Lingus chief executive, said that job losses of 676 announced October would reach more than 1,000 because of the failure of Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association to agree to cuts, as well as cabin crew refusing to accept wage cuts for those on more than €35,000.
He blamed the breakdown of talks on the union for insisting on only temporary wage cuts for a “few short years” and “very high compensation”.
The airline says it has applied also applied for UK Air Operator’s Certificate that would allow it to operate from Gatwick and Belfast.
Enda Corneille, corporate affairs director at Aer Lingus, is quoted in The Times saying: “We are going through the process with the Civil Aviation Authority, which will give us the opportunity to reflag the airlines and fly them from the UK so that Dublin would become somewhere to fly to rather than from.”
He added that the shift would allow pilots’ contracts to be changed in line with the terms under which its Gatwick-based pilots already operate, although admitted that this could take “a number of months”.
In January the carrier plans to cut its long-haul fleet from six aircraft to four and its short-haul jets by up to five to twenty-eight. This would also involve redundancies. Mueller said: “It is very likely that these redundancies will commence immediately and will be compulsory.”
He added: “I wanted to prove that a unionised airline - Aer Lingus - could be turned around in Ireland ... On this occasion, it has not been possible to reach agreement with all our employee groups and we must now take whatever actions are necessary to stabilise the business, in the interests of Aer Lingus, its customers, the majority of its employees and its shareholders.”
The airline has been trying to slash €74 million from its wage bill as it battles to fend off hostile bid approaches from Ryanair, its low-budget rival.
In the first half of the year its losses nearly quadrupled to €82 million. Last month, it reported third-quarter revenues down nearly 10 percent and long-haul passenger numbers down 13 percent.