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.
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 travelsupermarket.com 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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