1 June 2002

Talks deadlocked as planes are grounded

Talks aimed at resolving the dispute which threatens the future of Aer Lingus showed no sign of succeeding last night and could stretch into the weekend.

As management met pilots' representatives in Dublin all of the Irish national airline's services remained grounded until further notice.

There was speculation last night that the negotiations may be conducted at Ireland's Labour Court today.

Pilots staged a one-day strike on Thursday in protest at new work schedules but the airline said the threat of further stoppages had forced them to ground all flights until Sunday night at the earliest.

More than 100,000 travellers have been affected by the cancellations which are costing the company about £1.2 million a day.

Peter McLoone, secretary general of the pilots' union Impact, said his members wanted to "get the airline back to work as quickly as possible". He said: "All of the pilots would prefer to be up in the skies, but obviously the depth of feeling on this is very strong."

Pilots who presented themselves for work yesterday were told they had no duties. All have been taken off the payroll while flights are grounded.

Impact has accused Aer Lingus of conducting a lockout.

Business and tourism officials fear that the dispute could slash the number of visitors to Ireland and discourage potential business investment.

Seven pilots have been suspended for failure to comply with new work rosters which were introduced as part of a company survival plan.

The airline is expected to lose at least 130 million euros this year after an estimated 90 million euro loss last year.