Pilots at leisure airline Thomas Cook have announced three more strike dates if pay talks fail, following a 12 hour stoppage.British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) members walked out on Friday, in what the union said was the first strike by UK pilots since the 1970s.Thomas Cook said all flights had operated without disruption but it was disappointed by the new announcement.New strike dates have been set for 23 and 29 September as well as 6 October. ‘Enough is enough’Thomas Cook said it had offered the pilots a “fair” pay increase, but that Balpa had not moved from demands for a pay rise that added up to more than 10%, or about £10,000, a pilot. The company said its pilots who were not in the union had ensured the strike did not have an impact on flights or inconvenience customers.Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said he hoped a deal could be struck during five days of talks, but warned there was “still a significant gap between us and Thomas Cook”.Earlier, Mr Strutton said: “Thomas Cook pilots have faced year-on-year, real-terms pay cuts, and cuts to terms and conditions, and our pilots have said ‘enough is enough’.”He said Thomas Cook offered a 1.5% pay rise which was changed to 4% over two years during talks at the conciliation service Acas.The union is seeking a one-year deal “substantially” in excess of the Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation rate. The RPI rate stood at 3.6% in July.’Tough environment’Christoph Debus, chief airlines officer for Thomas Cook Group, said any pay rise had to be “reasonable and affordable” because the company was competing with low cost airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet.He said costs were going up because they had to pay for aircraft fuel in dollars and for many air traffic control or landing costs in euros, but the pound had fallen in value.”Obviously we work in an extremely tough environment. We have offered basically 4% over two years on top of normal annual pay increases of 1.8%.”We have an offer which is clearly above inflation. We have moved three times. “Balpa has not moved at all, so we really ask Balpa to come back to the table to negotiate with us.” The union said it remained committed to finding a solution to the dispute, which it said meant Thomas Cook putting forward a pay offer its pilots could accept.
As well as the strike, Thomas Cook is also having to take precautionary measures to help customers who could be affected by Hurricane Irma.The hurricane has pummelled the Turks and Caicos Islands after leaving a trail of destruction across the Caribbean, killing at least 14 people.About half a million people have been told to leave south Florida where Irma is due to arrive on Sunday.Thomas Cook said it had 5,780 customers in Orlando, 1,500 in the Dominican Republic and 4,800 in Cuba.It said 1,738 of its customers who were in Cayos, a string of islands lying off Cuba’s north-eastern coastline, had been moved to a mainland beach resort and Havana.The authorities issued evacuation orders on Thursday because the hurricane is expected to pass between Cuba and the Bahamas.Hurricane disruptionThomas Cook has also sent out 18 members of its special assistant teams to Cuba and the Dominican Republic in case they are required to support customers during the hurricane.One of its British tourists, Gaz Pritchard has tweeted that he is not happy with the arrangements provided.”The Canadians are being evacuated from our hotel in Cuba. British guests are left stranded with no information. Disgusting.”Thomas Cook said it was often safer for customers to stay where they were in the event of a hurricane because the hotels were built to withstand severe hurricane-strength wind and rain. Another tourist, Joe, who is staying at a resort in Varadero in Cuba, said his flight had been moved from Friday to Saturday with little explanation. Thomas Cook said flight plans were changing because of Irma, and that it was not down to strike action.