Iberia says strike to ground one-third of flights

28th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

A strike by Iberia pilots will ground more than one-third of the Spanish flag carrier's flights on Thursday, the airline said, after talks over a new budget carrier failed.

"The meeting was very short and they did not come to any agreement," a spokeswoman for the airline said Wednesday, a day after the one-hour talks with pilots about Iberia's new offshoot, budget carrier Iberia Express.

"The strike called for tomorrow is going ahead," she said.

No further meetings with the Spanish airline pilots' union SEPLA were scheduled before the strike, she said.

A total 118 out of the 329 scheduled flights for December 29 would be cancelled, the airline said.

Iberia said it would halt 10 percent of long-haul flights, 38 percent of medium-range flights, and 43 percent of domestic flights because of the strike action.

European routes most affected were with Italy, France, Germany, Britain, Portugal, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Elsewhere, the hardest hit were flights to and from the United States, Colombia and Argentina.

The airline said in a statement it had made new arrangements for "practically all" passengers affected by placing them on other Iberia flights or with other airlines.

It is the second one-day pilots' strike following industrial action December 18 when Iberia also cancelled one-third of its flights.

Iberia, working to cut expenses after merging with British Airways to create International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, plans to launch its low-cost subsidiary Iberia Express by spring 2012.

The new budget carrier will handle short- and medium-haul flights from Madrid, which have been facing heavy competition from other low-cost carriers and Spain's high-speed trains.

Pilots fear the salaries to be offered by the new airline will be too low but Iberia says the decision to launch the new carrier is up to management and is "non-negotiable".

© 2011 AFP

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