Skip to main content

Virgin Atlantic pilots vote for a strike

By the CNN Wires Staff
  • "There has been no UK strike for 32 years," a union official says
  • The overwhelming majority of pilots vote in favor of a strike
  • Virgin Atlantic says its offer is double the national average for a UK business

(CNN) -- Pilots of the British business mogul Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic Airways have broken with tradition and voted in favor of the picket line over a pay proposal, a first in the airlines' history.

"We are naturally disappointed with the result of the ballot but remain committed to further talks with our pilots' representatives to find a solution," Virgin Atlantic said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Representatives from the British Airline Pilots Association, the main union for the United Kingdom's commercial pilots, claim Virgin Atlantic pilots have not had a pay increase since 2008.

Pilots do not want to strike, but are being driven to strike and are hugely disappointed by the company's approach, said Jim McAuslan, general secretary for the pilots association.

He added that pilots were offered increases below inflation for the next two and a half years.

Union representatives said 97% of the pilots who voted were favor of a strike, and 94% of the membership voted.

"The size of the poll and the huge majority for action should send a clear message to Sir Richard Branson," McAuslan said. "There has been no UK pilot strike for 32 years. But there comes a time when even moderate people say 'enough.'"

Virgin Atlantic representatives said they have made an offer to the pilots union that is double the national average for a UK business.

"We value our pilots enormously and that is why we have offered three guaranteed pay rises in the next two and a half years and a share of company profits," Virgin Atlantic said in a written statement.

Airline representatives said they were optimistic that once the union communicated their offer to the pilots, a strike would be averted.

But the British Airline Pilots Association stood firm.

"Time is running out," McAuslan said. "If damage is to be avoided and passengers not inconvenienced, then Sir Richard needs to act now."

Virgin Atlantic representatives said contingency plans are in place to minimize the impact of a strike on consumers.