December 16, 2016 / 5:30 PM / 3 years ago

Virgin Atlantic pilots vote for industrial action over union recognition

LONDON (Reuters) - Pilots at Virgin Atlantic voted on Friday to work to rule from Dec. 23 in a dispute over sole recognition of their union, the latest round of industrial action to threaten Christmas holiday air travel.

A Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400, with Tail Number G-VROC, lands at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, California, April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Louis Nastro

British Airways cabin crew voted on Wednesday to strike this month while baggage handlers will be walking out for two days from next Friday.

Over half of Virgin Atlantic’s around 900 pilots are represented by the Professional Pilots’ Union (PPU).

The PPU said in a statement the ballot turnout was 80.3 percent, with 88.6 percent voting in favour of industrial action.

“The action will see a removal of ‘pilot goodwill’ with pilots who are members of the PPU working strictly to their contract,” it said.

“It is possible that this may leave some flights not covered for the duration of any action, which has the potential to continue indefinitely,” it added.

The airline, 51 percent-owned by billionaire founder Richard Branson and 49 percent-owned by U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), primarily flies transatlantic routes.

“We expect our flying programme to remain unaffected during this period and want to reassure our customers that all flights are operating as normal,” it said in a statement.

“We are disappointed with the result of the ballot to take Action Short of a Strike, which essentially means ‘work to rule.’”

The action by Virgin pilots comes after thousands of cabin crew working for British Airways on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly in favour of striking in a pay dispute, with walk-outs due after Dec. 21.

In addition, the Unite union said over 1,500 check-in staff, baggage handlers and cargo crew at airports across Britain will walk out for 48 hours from Friday Dec. 23 in a long-running pay dispute.

A long-running dispute between German airline Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) and its pilots has already cost the German airline hundreds of millions of euros since early 2014.

Reporting by Stephen Addison; additional reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Andy Bruce

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