Call off Disneyland! Summer holiday chaos as Virgin pilots to strike

Summer holidays to popular destinations like Disneyworld in Florida could be under threat after Virgin pilots voted for strike action over their pay.

The union announced the decision, which could bring transport chaos to thousands of passengers, alongside weeks of uncertainty until strike dates are announced or a peace deal negotiated.

The strike would hit key long-haul family holiday routes like Disneyland in California, Disneyworld in Florida and Caribbean hotspots.

The pilots, who earn up to £110,000 a year, are angry at a 4% offer made to them by Sir Richard Branson's airline following three years of pay freezes.

The British Airline Pilots' Union (BALPA) says pilots have not had a rise since 2008 when they agreed to forgo an increase to help the company, with the expectation of a 'fair' hike this year.

BALPA, which represents most of Virgin's 750 pilots, said 97 per cent voted for walk-outs, with a turnout of 94 per cent.

Balpa's executive will meet later in the week to discuss the ballot result, and will have to give Virgin seven days notice of any walkouts.

The union said it had not yet set strike dates, in the hope that Sir Richard will intervene to help find a solution.

BALPA general secretary Jim McAuslan told the Daily Mail: 'Pilots are being driven to strike.
With no pay increase since 2008, a below inflation offer for 2011 and proposals for 2012 and 2013 that will be sub-inflation this is now a 6 year attack on living standards which has not happened in any other UK airline.'

'Pilots are prepared to strike. We have absolute resolve to secure a fair settlement. When a group professional people say "enough" someone at the top should sit up and listen. We do not want to inconvenience the public and hope that Sir Richard will use some of his undoubted Virgin Flair to settle this.'

With talks ongoing since November, Mr McAuslan said 'time is running out' adding: 'If damage is to be avoided and passengers not inconvenienced then Sir Richard needs to act now.'

A Virgin spokesman said: 'We continue to have talks with BALPA. We have made an offer twice the national average for UK businesses and ahead of the majority of the airline industry.
'Pilots are an extremely valuable part of our workforce and we hope we can find a resolution.'

Bob Atkinson from said this is bad news for holidaymakers. His advice? Good travel insurance: 'It is vital that all passengers have travel insurance that has a strike clause within it. It is not too late to take out such a policy as you can still take out cover up until the union announces specific dates of action.'

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Call off Disneyland! Summer holiday chaos as Virgin pilots to strike

Reviews on included this scathing comment: ‘Incredibly uncomfortable seats, poor food, rude staff who just wanted to get the meal service out of the way so they could stand at the rear of the plane and chat amongst themselves.’ Hopefully, the merger with British Airways will mean there's a hope for a rise in standards.

These less-than-glowing reviews on say it all: ‘…nothing could be as bad as EgyptAir. Dirty aircraft with disinterested crew. The toilets were filthy, food looked like leftovers from other airlines. The seating is exceptionally cramped and uncomfortable’ and ‘I find the staff on EgyptAir lazy and unprofessional.’ And apparently the seats aren’t cheap either!

Old planes and unexplained flight delays were among the common complaints about this Chinese airline. Customers alternately complained that flight attendants don’t speak English (although some praising the communication skills). Other comments included criticism of the poor quality of the food and service.

Oh dear, customers are not happy with their experience of this airline or its website. Shabby planes, flights being delayed, rescheduled or rerouted without notice or explanation. And the airline got the lowest score for its food. Altogether a big thumbs down from reviewers.

Chinese air travel isn’t coming off well according to Zagat findings. Customer comments on on this airline’s service included: ‘…poor food, warm drinks, inadequate English language skills of crew (including nonsensical inflight announcements), non-reclining seats… All in all, quite an unpleasant series of flights’ and ‘Be careful to check and re-check your booking, as flight times can (and did) change without notice. You can miss your flight very easily.’

Described by one reviewer as ‘the airline from hell’, you’d be forgiven for giving it a wide berth unless it ups its game considerably! Reviews included: ‘First, the airline could not fine my reservation… then they determined that "someone" had canceled it in spite of my confirming it on their website’; ‘The worst thing was the attitude of US airways staff and the lies they told us. I wouldn't touch them again with a barge pole’ and ‘Most of the staff are rude and unfriendly… All in all a terrible experience. Never again.’

It was the terminal at the airport that came in for most criticism here. Customers commented on the poor bus transfer to the gate and unfriendly staff. Another criticism was that the elderly and passengers with children weren’t properly catered for. And one reviewer said the pilot announced: 'Sorry, we do not fly today. The plane is broken'.

The general stampede for unallocated seats was a common criticism for easyJet. One customer complained: ‘It would cost the easyJet computer nothing to allocate seats and alleviate the impression one is fighting for a place on a bus that may be overfull’; another said: ‘My biggest concern was the feeling of chaos inboard. The safety demo audio was played at a very low volume, and people were speaking on their mobile phones during the safety demonstration, cabin crew seemingly not giving a damn.’ Other complaints include overbooked flights and disorganised service...

Lack of food on international flights, a poorly kept plane and bad service generally were all at the heart of the complaints by travellers. TOne passenger pulled no punches with the comment: ‘My trip from Lima, Peru to Boston was the biggest nightmare of my life next to getting all four of my wisdom teeth pulled while conscious’; another, commenting on the policy of charging for hand luggage, said: ‘Robbing people as they board your airplane should really help your already abysmal tardy departure record…’ and a third summed up with: ‘They charge for everything, their agents are rude, and the flights are overbooked, late, not that clean, and just an awful experience.’  Biggest gripe of all was the charges the airline makes for hand luggage.

It was not hard to find reviewers with a poor opinion of the budget airline. An overriding impression was one of being ripped off.  As one customer commented: ‘I've concluded that Ryanair is nothing but a great big social experiment to see how arrogant an airline can get and how low customer service can be pushed before the said airline starts to lose money….We keep coming back to this horrid airline with its miserable service in hope that we'll save a Euro or two. Reality is that we probably end up spending more money than we would have if we opted for a better airline’, while delivered a damning verdict: ‘They have to be the most customer unfriendly company I have come across. Dirty plane when we eventually got on, tired looking and dishevelled cabin crew. What more can I say - a shocking experience that I never wish to repeat.’

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