The threat of a damaging pilots' strike at Virgin Atlantic was lifted last night. The pilots union, Balpa, said it had "secured an offer" from the airline which would be put to a ballot.

Jim McAuslan, the union's general secretary, said: "Pilots have never wished to inconvenience the travelling public, especially those looking forward to summer holidays.

"We have therefore lifted the threat of strike action."

In a letter to the pilots, Sir Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic, warned that a strike would leave an "indelible scar" on the airline.