LONDON – Following its latest announcement of strikes, the Professional Pilots Union (PPU) within Virgin Atlantic (VS) have announced an extension of strikes going into the first quarter of next year. The PPU is striking over union recognition as well as the benefits program that is set to be changed within the airline’s structure.

Because talks have not progressed, the union has gone to mediation service ACAS to hopefully resolve the dispute, but the airline insists that the threat of strikes must be removed before they will agree to negotiate.

Virgin Atlantic has also said that it applied to the courts for an injunction to declare the strikes illegal. A date for the hearing has been set for December 20, which is two days before the first strikes on the 22nd.

“Our priority is to ensure that our customers can complete their travel plans this Christmas, regardless of any proposed industrial action from 16% of our pilots who voted for this,” a spokesperson for the airline said.

“We’ve been working hard to ensure this remains the case and as a result, we have a number of contingency plans in place. We’ve secured additional aircraft that, if required, will provide extra capacity to make sure all of our customers can reach their final destinations,” it continued.

Steve Johnson, the spokesman for the PPU, said that “this is not about money; it’s not unreasonable to expect a company like Virgin – whose founder Richard Branson insists it treats its staff well – to recognize a union that represents a sizeable proportion of its workforce.”

Five Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747s at Orlando Airport.

He continued to say that because of the lack of communication from the carrier, “it leaves us with no choice but step up our strike action.”

The union will be striking on the following dates going into 2019:

  • 11th-13th January
  • 17th-20th January
  • 24th-27th January
  • 31st January-3rd February
  • 8th-10th February
  • 14th-16th February
  • 21st-24th February
  • 28th-2nd March

A third of the 965 pilots in the Virgin workforce will be striking under the PPU name. Virgin Atlantic said that this would not cause any impact, but the fact further contingency had to take place would suggest otherwise.

It will be interesting to see whether Virgin will budge. For now, though, it may not as results of the court injunction will still need to be heard before the carrier responds next.