Virgin Atlantic pilots announce strike action in run up to Christmas

Air passengers are facing potential disruption during the Christmas getaway after pilots at Virgin Atlantic voted in favour of strike action.

The Professional Pilots Union said its members at the airline had voted by more than 7-1 in favour of industrial action.

The strike will begin on Saturday December 22 and last until Christmas Day. Other strikes are also planned for December 30 to January 2 and January 4-7.

The PPU, which represents around a third of Virgin’s pilots, has been involved in a long running dispute over recognition.

The dispute is understood to be over a review of the benefits the airline offers its pilots, according to The Mirror.

Virgin Atlantic is entering into discussions with the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) to review these, but has not included the PPU in the negotiations.

This is because, although the PPU represents approximately 30 per cent of its pilots, Virgin Atlantic currently does not recognise it as a union.

Spokesman Steve Johnson, said the union have conducted a work-to-rule action for two years to secure recognition by Virgin, but it has been forced to take action after being “shut out” of negotiations.

“Virgin Atlantic have consistently refused to recognise the PPU as a legitimate and independent union, essentially disenfranchising our members,” he said.

“Despite the rhetoric that consultations are inclusive of all staff and unions, in practice this doesn’t happen.

“We hope that Virgin acknowledge the mandate our members have given us, and help avoid strike action by recognising the PPU and halting the benefits review that is so damaging to our members’ long-term security.

“Our door is – and has always been – open to Virgin to take the necessary steps to prevent any disruption for Christmas travellers.

“This is such an easy fix for the company; by including all unions in negotiations – not just one selected by the company – it can then live up to its claimed inclusiveness and we can get round the table together to negotiate a sustainable outcome for our members.

“The pilot workforce is a professional and committed group that sees striking as anathema, but clearly feel bullied into this action by a company that chooses to ignore them.”

Virgin Atlantic Plane
(Image: Handout)

A Virgin Atlantic spokesman added: “A small number of our pilots have voted for industrial action.

“Our absolute priority is to ensure that all of our customers can continue their journeys as planned this Christmas, and we’re working hard to protect all of their trips.”

Which? travel editor Rory Boland said: “This is deeply worrying for families and people desperate to see loved ones over the Christmas period, especially with the strike action potentially starting on what will be one of the busiest travel days of the year.

“Our advice to anyone planning a trip over the Christmas break is not to panic but check with Virgin Atlantic before you travel. While we hope Virgin can sort this out, if your journey is affected remember that you do have rights.”