STRIKING pilots at a low-cost airline in Spain have forced the cancellation of almost 250 flights today (Wednesday) and tomorrow, including some to the UK.
Vueling operates flights to Alicante, Barcelona, Palma, Ibiza and Malaga from many British airports including London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Luton, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Edinburgh.
It is already known that a small number of UK flights at London Gatwick and Luton Airport are among those affected.
The Barcelona-based airline has stressed that 81% of flights will operate normally and that passengers on the cancelled flights should already have received a notification by email or text message.
It is the first Vueling pilots’ strike in their history but further 24-hour strikes are scheduled for 25 and 26 April and May 3 and 4 unless the airline pilots union (SEPLA) and Vueling, owned by British Airways’ parent company International Airlines Group can reach an agreement over claimed breaches of employment contracts and the airline’s refusal to guarantee greater growth in Spain than in its foreign bases.
Currently, Vueling has around 1,000 pilots based in Spain and about 150 overseas. But it is feared this could change as bases are moved abroad.
Juan Manuel Redondo, head of the trade union section of SEPLA at Vueling, said, “Now that Vueling is tripling its profits, and that there have even been distributions of up to €100 million euros of dividends before results, the conditions for the pilots do not change.
“It’s worse,” says Redondo, because the company’s only offer, which they say has been rejected by 90% of the pilots, “is a zero improvement and even worsens the conditions of the previous agreement.”
Vueling pilots claim they receive 30% less on average than their main competitors including Ryanair and easyJet.
SEPLA claims that at least 30 pilots have already left the airline this year joining the 90 that left last year.
“They do not want to be in the company,” says Redondo. “Although it is a company with great potential,” he acknowledged.