Air passengers face the threat of further chaos after news that Virgin Atlantic pilots could be planning a strike over a holiday entitlement dispute.
Hundreds of Virgin pilots are expected to be balloted on strike action as early as this week if “last ditch” talks between the airline and the pilots union fail to reach a settlement.
The airline and the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) are scheduled to meet on Tuesday in a bid to find a solution.
The dispute centres on the union’s claim that Virgin is denying pilots their right to a minimum number of days off as previously agreed to by the two sides.
Virgin pilots are arguing against changes to a system which guarantees them 120 days off a year, on top of holiday, in return for routinely working weekends and bank holidays.
A spokesman for the Balpa said that it is “hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” though failed to confirm if this could lead to strike action.
Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the pilots’ association, said the union “always does what it can to assist airlines through downturns, as many airlines will testify, and we did this with Virgin during these past difficult years.”
He added: “To now find that the company is breaching an agreement and denying many pilots their entitlement to the equivalent of a weekend off is a real slap in the face and one which we cannot accept.”
A vote by the pilots to strike would be the first in Virgin Atlantic’s history, and could prove costly. The airline’s arch rival, British Airways, has lost over £150 million due to its ongoing cabin crew dispute.