Virgin Atlantic Pilots Plan Christmas Strike
Virgin Atlantic pilots who are members of the Professional Pilots Union haven announced a strike for the peak Christmas travel season.
The union announced Friday that its pilots would stage walkouts from Dec. 22 to 25, Dec. 30 to Jan. 2 and Jan. 4 to Jan. 7. Pilots who are members of the union proposed the demonstrations after the union was excluded from talks the airline held regarding changes to pilots' benefits. Even though this particular union represents the greatest amount of its pilots, Virgin Atlantic does not recognize PPU. Instead, the carrier only works with the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA).
After being excluded from the benefits discussion, PPU's members held a vote on whether to strike. Of the 72% of the pilots who voted, 71.5% voted in favor of staging the demonstrations.
“It’s the last straw; Virgin Atlantic have consistently refused to recognize the PPU as a legitimate and independent union, essentially disenfranchising our members,” Steve Johnson, spokesperson for PPU told TPG in an emailed statement. “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 recognizing the PPU and halt the benefits review that is so damaging to our members long-term security."
The unrecognized union represents about 30% of Virgin Atlantic's pilots. According to PPU, it sent out 304 ballots for pilots to vote on the strike action. The union quotes Virgin Atlantic stating it has 965 pilots total.
“A small number of our pilots have voted for industrial action," a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told TPG in an email. "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.”
The airline is not expecting flight disruptions, though it is unclear how it plans to get by during one of the busiest travel seasons with nearly a third of its pilots walking off the job.
If you are booked to travel with Virgin Atlantic on one of the affected strike days, now might be a good time to check if your card has built-in protection for delayed or canceled flights. Here’s a full list of cards with travel protection.