Strike: Virgin Atlantic pilots consider taking industrial action over fatigue

Virgin Atlantic employs 835 pilots

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Pilots at Virgin Atlantic are reportedly considering going on strike after raising "serious concerns" about fatigue and their wellbeing.

In a recent vote, Virgin Atlantic's pilot union, British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) said 96% of Virgin Atlantic pilots supported a ballot on industrial action.

The concerns regard scheduling and rostering arrangements which were introduced during Covid and that will come to an end in December.

Virgin Atlantic passenger aircraft at Heathrow Airport. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)Virgin Atlantic passenger aircraft at Heathrow Airport. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
Virgin Atlantic passenger aircraft at Heathrow Airport. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

Virgin Airlines said it was willing to negotiate the matter in the coming weeks.

The airline said the existing pay and lifestyle agreement was "agreed, developed and supported by Balpa pilot representatives within Virgin Atlantic, and our pilot community".

Virgin Atlantic employs 835 pilots and it is believed the majority are members of the Balpa pilots' union.

A spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic said: "We continue to honour all agreements and have offered to enter formal pay and lifestyle negotiations with Balpa's pilot union representatives in the coming weeks, well in advance of the agreement expiring in December."

Airlines were massively affected during the pandemic as international travel paused to prevent the spread of Covid.

A spokesperson for Balpa said: "Our members have registered a trade dispute with Virgin Atlantic arising out of serious concerns relating to pilot fatigue and wellbeing around scheduling and rostering arrangements, implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic."

It said that 81% of its Virgin Atlantic union members voted in the ballot and gave Balpa "an overwhelming mandate to pursue this dispute".

The Civil Aviation Authority said the maximum flying time for a commercial pilot is 900 hours per calendar year, and it is understood the rostered average for Virgin Atlantic pilots is around 750 hours.

Virgin Atlantic is part of Virgin Group, which was founded by Sir Richard Branson.

Sir Richard asked the UK government for help in 2020 but was rejected. Virgin Group injected £200m into the airline and secured other investments to keep the business afloat.

At the time 3,500 staff had to be cut, leaving it with 6,500 employees.

On Sunday, a spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic said that the airline "underwent a radical transformation as a result of the impact of Covid-19, which was possible due to the collective effort of our amazing people".

They said: "This was fundamental to our survival and our steadfast commitment to returning to sustainable profitability. We're grateful to them all, including our pilots who play a pivotal role in the success of our operation."

Balpa said its members "feel very strongly" about pilot fatigue and wellbeing.

The union said it prefers to address matters through "negotiation and industrial compromise and will only countenance industrial action as a last resort".

It added: "We remain ready to commence negotiations to find an acceptable way forward and urge Virgin Atlantic to listen to its staff and put forward an acceptable offer that our members could support."

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