Iberia cancells 124 flights
Madrid - Spanish airline Iberia said it had
cancelled 124 flights on Monday as pilots began a series of one-day strikes to
protest against conditions at new low-cost offshoot Iberia Express.
Pilots' union SEPLA has vowed to strike every
Monday and Friday until July 20 - a total of 30 days - in its battle against
the budget airline, which began flying on March 25.
Iberia cancelled 124 flights, or 38 percent
of the 330 scheduled services, a company spokeswoman said, affecting many
passengers returning home after Easter holidays.
An earlier string of 12 one-day pilot strikes
in December, January and February forced about one-third of flights to be
cancelled each day. Iberia estimated it cost the firm a total $47m.
Iberia managment and the pilots' union have
failed to reach agreement over the launch of Iberia Express.
SEPLA says the launch of Iberia Express
breaches a work agreement. The union also says that management plans to
transfer 40 aircraft from Iberia to the offshoot with the loss of 8 000 jobs.
Iberia argues the union has shown an
"irresponsible and intransigent" attitude and it launched National
Court action on April 2 seeking to have the strike declared illegal, the
airline spokesperson said.
A decision could take at least a month, she
Management has reached agreements with most
staff with the exception of pilots for the launch of Iberia Express, a budget
offshoot serving short- and medium-haul routes.
The low-cost carrier began with four Airbus
A320 aircraft serving 17 routes, mostly Spanish destinations such as Ibiza,
Palma de Majorca and Seville but also some European cities including Dublin,
Naples and Amsterdam.
Iberia Express forecasts that by the end of
2012 it will have carried 2.5 million passengers to more than 20 destinations
with 14 planes and 500 staff.