Aer Lingus pilot pay row heading for Labour Court

Talks at Workplace Relations Commission fail to resolve dispute

Aer Lingus pilots pledged to continue seeking a pay increase of more than 20 per cent as their dispute with the airline looked destined for the Labour Court. The Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) and Aer Lingus agreed to refer the pay row to the court after talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ended without resolution this week.

A message to members from Ialpa president, Captain Mark Tighe, confirmed that the union had sought an increase of 23.88 per cent to cover inflation and the fact that pilots’ last pay rise was in 2019. Capt Tighe pledged that the union’s executive would continue to pursue “a pay increase that will be acceptable to the pilot body”.

Aer Lingus said on Wednesday that pilots sought increases significantly higher than 12.25 per cent over three years that a company pay tribunal offered in December, which most other staff accepted. The airline said the pilots’ union’s “failure to engage in the WRC process in a responsible manner risks investment, growth and jobs” at Aer Lingus.

Ialpa said that the union was disappointed that Aer Lingus had issued the statement at a time when the industrial relations process was still under way.


Most of its members voted to reject the tribunal’s offer. The figure was reduced to 8.5 per cent to take into account the cost of extra flexibility on summer leave that Aer Lingus agreed with pilots in 2019.

The Irish Times understands that Aer Lingus estimates that absorbing the cost of the leave agreement would bring the total cost of the pilots’ claim to 27 per cent. The carrier also fears that increasing pilots’ pay would hit its ability to compete with its biggest rival on European routes Ryanair.

Mid-career captains in Aer Lingus earn €177,365 a year in total, against a reported €163,450 in Ryanair. That €14,000 gap can widen to more than €75,000 for captains who reach year 20 with Aer Lingus, when they can earn €239,000.

Aer Lingus co-pilots could earn up to €121,519 against a reported €82,474 in Ryanair, according to some estimates.

Pilots’ pay includes basic salary and different allowances. Aer Lingus flies long-haul to North America and short-haul to Europe, using different types of mostly Airbus aircraft. It has salary scales with multiple points.

Ryanair only flies short-haul, mostly in Europe, where it is the biggest carrier. The airline uses one type of aircraft, the Boeing 737. It has a simpler pay structure and has said that its size means it can offer pilots more rapid promotion than its rivals. It did not comment on Wednesday.

Aer Lingus is known to dispute the claim that pilots have not had a pay increase since 2019 as it maintains that they have continued to receive increments since then, some higher than 50 per cent.

Capt Tighe’s message told members that the union believed it was highly inappropriate for Aer Lingus to comment on how Ialpa representatives had engaged with the WRC.

The Labour Court has not set a date to hear the dispute.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas