Virgin Atlantic pilots vote for industrial action over union recognition

A Virgin Atlantic aircraft comes in to land at Heathrow airport in west London, Oct 25, 2016.
A Virgin Atlantic aircraft comes in to land at Heathrow airport in west London, Oct 25, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Pilots at Virgin Atlantic voted on Friday (Dec 16) to work to rule from Dec 23 in a dispute over sole recognition of their union, the latest round of industrial action to threaten Christmas holiday air travel.

British Airways cabin crew voted on Wednesday to strike this month while baggage handlers will be walking out for two days from next Friday.

Over half of Virgin Atlantic's around 900 pilots are represented by the Professional Pilots' Union (PPU).

The PPU said in a statement the ballot turnout was 80.3 per cent, with 88.6 per cent voting in favour of industrial action.

"The action will see a removal of 'pilot goodwill' with pilots who are members of the PPU working strictly to their contract," it said.

"It is possible that this may leave some flights not covered for the duration of any action, which has the potential to continue indefinitely," it added.

The airline, 51 per cent-owned by billionaire founder Richard Branson and 49 per cent-owned by US carrier Delta Air Lines , primarily flies transatlantic routes.

"We expect our flying programme to remain unaffected during this period and want to reassure our customers that all flights are operating as normal," it said in a statement.

"We are disappointed with the result of the ballot to take Action Short of a Strike, which essentially means 'work to rule.'"

The action by Virgin pilots comes after thousands of cabin crew working for British Airways on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly in favour of striking in a pay dispute, with walk-outs due after Dec 21.

In addition, the Unite union said over 1,500 check-in staff, baggage handlers and cargo crew at airports across Britain will walk out for 48 hours from Friday Dec 23 in a long-running pay dispute.

A long-running dispute between German airline Lufthansa and its pilots has already cost the German airline hundreds of millions of euros since early 2014.