Airline halts flights in face of pilots' strike

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The Independent Online

Iberia Airlines has suspended all domestic and international flights last night after 99 pilots resigned.

Announcing the action Xabier de Irala, president of the Spanish carrier, estimated 80,000 passengers would be affected by the action, which began at 10pm.

He said operations would be suspended until the airline was restructured. The 99 pilots belong to the Sepla trade union.

The suspension came after the pilots called for one-day strikes during what is normally one of the company's busiest periods, with millions of holidaymakers visiting Spain. Pilots are demanding improved pensions and wage increases, which Iberia says would add 20 per cent to its costs. The pilots had called strikes for each Tuesday in July and each Monday in August.

On Tuesday, the striking pilots forced Iberia to cancel 230 flights worldwide. At the time, the airline appeared to harden its position by refusing to discuss salary and pension improvements "under blackmail" of further threatened stoppages.

Iberia's 1,875 pilots accuse the airline of reneging on a 1995 agreement on wage moderation during privatisation and are demanding a 20 per cent raise as well as better pensions. (AP)