Iberia staff call off strike

Workers of Spanish airline Iberia have called off a third five-day strike in a dispute over thousands of job cuts after unions accepted a mediation plan, the company said late on Wednesday.

Iberia staff call off strike
Workers at Spanish airline Iberia have called off their latest strike after a mediator came up with a plan to minimize job and salary cuts. Photo: Andres Rueda

"Iberia and the union representatives of 93 percent of the staff have agreed to accept and implement the proposal of the mediator Gregorio Tudela with respect to the viability plan for the company," it said in a statement.

Ground and flight staff had threatened to strike from March 18th to 22nd, after two similar strikes that caused thousands of flights to be cancelled, in protest at plans to cut 3,800 jobs.

But the airline said that strike would be called off after workers accepted proposals to reduce the number of jobs cuts to 3,100, improve the severance payments and lighten salary cuts.

The striking workers had denounced the restructuring plan by International Airlines Group, the holding company set up for Iberia and British Airways, after the two merged in 2011.

They accused IAG of trying to dismantle the pride of Spanish civil aviation for the benefit of BA.

Iberia executives say the airline accumulated €850 million ($1.1 billion) in losses between 2008 and September 2012.

In a bid to stem the red ink, the Spanish airline plans to slash its network capacity by 15 percent and downsize its fleet by 25 aircraft, including five long-haul jets, by the middle of this year.

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Spain to take legal action against airlines who failed customers during coronavirus crisis

Iberia protested Tuesday after the Spanish government pledged to sue 17 airlines for failing to inform travellers about their right to a refund for flights cancelled during the pandemic.

Spain to take legal action against airlines who failed customers during coronavirus crisis
Photos: AFP

A day after the consumer affairs ministry said it would take legal action, the Spanish carrier hit back.

“Iberia and Iberia Express inform customers clearly about their rights,” it said.   

Under European law, when a flight is cancelled, passengers must be offered  an alternative flight or a refund. The refund may be voucher, but only if the customer consents, the European Commission clarified last month.

“Shortcomings in the information provided on customers' rights following the cancellation of flights,” led to  the legal action, the ministry said.    

“The misleading omission of information by airlines in offering vouchers (as the only option) constitutes unfair trading involving a clear lack of consent as well as a breach of the law,” a statement said.

Iberia said it was “bewildered” by the allegations and denounced the “very damaging effects” of such a move on both its reputation and “financial ability to overcome the current paralysis”.

Companies to be named in the lawsuit are Air Europa, Air France, Binter Canarias, EasyJet, Eurowings, Iberia (Iberia Express and Air Nostrum), Jet 2, KLM, Latam Airlines, Lufthansa, Ryanair, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), Transavia, Thomson Airways (TUI), United Airlines, Volotea and Wizzair.   

“Refunds are always possible. This option has been clearly offered to our customers,” Germany's Lufthansa told AFP.

“But it must be understood that refunds are not being paid out within the normal timeframe,” it said.

The refund issue has become a political hot potato in the European Union.   

At the end of April, 12 European states including France — but not Spain — asked the bloc to suspend the law requiring airlines to offer full refunds for flights cancelled due to the crisis.

But the Commission said airlines must offer refunds and cannot force passengers to accept vouchers, while suggesting they incentivise vouchers as a way to support the hard-hit tourism sector.

French consumer rights group UFC-Que Choisir also said in May it would file a legal complaint against 20 airlines for failing to reimburse customers for cancelled flights.

With the near freezing of international traffic, airlines face an unprecedented financial crisis. Industry body Airlines for Europe (A4E) says €9.2 billion ($10.3 billion) had been lost in unused tickets by the end of May.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) gave a similar estimate, saying unused tickets amounted to some $10 billion in Europe and $35 billion globally.

READ MORE: Spain records zero daily coronavirus deaths for second day running