Aer Lingus dispute: What happens next and who has paid the price so far?

by hadmanuel634020

The next 72 hours will be crucial in shaping the summer for hundreds of thousands of Aer Lingus passengers with a Labour Court recommendation aimed at ending the strike due to be published early this week.

Once its non-binding decision is sent to both management and the Aer Lingus pilots’ union, the latter will ballot its members on the ruling, after which a clearer picture of what lies ahead should emerge.

If the Labour Court decision wins the backing of the union (Ialpa), then it will almost certainly be approved by its members and the industrial unrest will end.

If, however, Ialpa believes the ruling does not go far enough towards meeting its initial pay claim of close to 24 per cent, then the recommendation will most likely be rejected by pilots.

A ballot will take several days to complete – there were issues over an electronic ballot the union conducted last month, so a paper ballot will most likely be the option chosen.

If the industrial dispute, which is currently limited to a work-to-rule, is upgraded to days of all out strikes, things will get much worse for travelling passengers.

Aer Lingus cancelled flights: Up-to-date list of services disrupted due to action by pilots ]

Over the course of just under two weeks of the ongoing work-to-rule, which has seen pilots refuse to work anything above their rostered hours, the airline has been able to minimise the impact of the dispute with about 40 flights on to short-haul business routes cancelled each day.

The airline’s decision to cut 80 more flights next week brings to 548 the number of services it has cancelled to combat pilots’ industrial action, with about 82,000 passengers seeing their travel plans upended as a consequence.

However, over the eight hours of an all-out-strike on Saturday June 29th, Aer Lingus had to cancel 120 flights, including flights to key holiday destinations such as Malaga and Faro.

Under industrial relation rules, the union will have to give management at least seven days notice of any action on top of the work-to-rule already in effect.

Based on a time line that would see the Labour Court recommendation being published on Monday and voted on by Thursday evening, the earliest date for an all-out-strike would be Thursday July 18th.

As the dispute continues, more passengers are reporting delays in getting refunds from the airline as a result of cancelled flights.

Passengers forced to rebook flights cancelled or facing cancellation because of the Aer Lingus dispute have been warned they must pay any price difference between old and new journeys upfront and then wait to be reimbursed by the airline.

The airline has repeatedly said that anyone affected by flight cancellations “will be given the option to change their flights for free. They will also be able to claim a refund or voucher”.

However, changing flights to alternate dates can incur significant costs that passengers have to bear before being reimbursed by the airline.

While Aer Lingus said it was working to ensure people were not left out of pocket for too long, lags of several days are possible, with travelling passengers warned they will need to have sufficient funds to cover any additional costs.

Thomas Walsh is a musician and had a concert scheduled for London last Saturday night.

“My girlfriend travelled from Los Angeles last week to visit me for 10 days [and] we were travelling a fair bit around and I booked every flight with Aer Lingus months ago,” he said.

“When the threat of the strike became a reality, I immediately cancelled our flight to Heathrow, which was scheduled to take off on the second day of the work-to-rule. Doing a show meant I could not take any chance that our flight would be one of the ones to go ahead, so I booked the Ferry to Holyhead and train to London. Our flight did go ahead, one of two out of seven to Heathrow that flew that day.”

He applied for the refund two weeks ago and has yet to hear back from the airline.

Kevin Grant also contacted this newspaper to say he was “significantly out of pocket for rebooking transatlantic flights”. He expressed concern about delays in the refund, as his “credit-card bill will soon become due for the alternative flights that I booked”.

Mark Ennis noted that a family member was asked to pay €370 to change a flight that had been cancelled by Aer Lingus.

There were, however, some good-news stories too.

Larry Coady was due to travel from New York to Dublin and received a text late last week telling him the flight was cancelled and he had been rebooked on a flight via Manchester a day earlier than scheduled.

“I spent an hour of unsuccessfully trying to rebook online via the app and laptop (with additional charge of €200+, for a later direct flight on my original return date),” he says.

“I decided to bite the bullet and try calling them. Expectations weren’t high and I was prepped for a long wait. But what a result – Start to finish 8m 23secs, rebooked on a direct later flight on Thursday, no additional cost. So, while the online experience was a total disaster – getting so far and then not being able to finalise – [there was] excellent phone service.”

Another reader and his wife were in Mijas not far from Malaga for a week from June 22nd to June 29th.

“At 9.50pm on Thursday, June 27th we were informed via email that our flight to Dublin on the 29th had been cancelled and that we had the usual options (voucher, rebooking, or refund).”

He said they both needed to be back home on the 29th, so they “quickly booked two single Ryanair flights for an eye-watering €850″.

Once home, they filled in the Aer Lingus refund form “and were sent a reference number with the assurance that we would receive the refund of our cancelled return flights (approx €340) within 10 days. We laughed at that, but lo and behold, by Tuesday, the money arrived. It was a pleasant surprise to be refunded so very, very, quickly.”

“As has been outlined by Aer Lingus since the beginning of this dispute, we are waiving any change fees and customers are being asked to submit a refund request for any fare difference,” a spokeswoman for the airline has said.

She said about 75 per cent of customers were having their refund requests processed within 24 hours, and added that the airline’s customer care team is “actively working on processing the remainder as quickly as possible”.

“We apologise to customers for the serious disruption being caused by the industrial action and appreciate that this is a very difficult time for them,” she said.

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