Virgin Atlantic pilots to vote on strike action

tic pilots has been called, threatening disruption to flights this summer.

The British Airline Pilots Association has called the ballot, which is expected to be completed by the end of June, in a dispute over pay.

The union claims that Virgin pilots have not received a pay rise since 2008 and a current offer of 4% this year and 3% in 2012 and 2013 will fail to keep up with inflation.

If the strike call is endorsed, it would be the first by pilots in the airline's history and will hit holidaymakers at the start of the summer holiday peak period.

The move by BALPA, which represents 85% of Virgin's 50 pilots, comes less than a week after British Airways resolved its 18-month dispute with cabin crew.

A spokesman for the airline said: “Virgin Atlantic can confirm that it has received a? communication from the pilots’ union BALPA of its intention to commence a ballot of the airline’s pilots for potential industrial action.

“The company has made a fair, affordable and sustainable offer that is in line with the rest of the industry and we continue to be open to dialogue.

“Virgin Atlantic would like to reassure passengers that all of its flight schedule continues to operate as normal.”

BALPA general secretary Jim McAuslan said: "With inflation running at 5% and likely to remain high, pilots would, if they accepted these increases, be in effect voting themselves years of wage cuts.

“We do not want a dispute but to date there has been no meaningful movement by the company and even the involvement of ACAS has not broken the logjam.

“Virgin's pilots feel very angry and disappointed at the way they are being treated after their sacrifices in 2008, 2009 and last year. The company is asking us to effectively sign up to five years of cuts in pay.

“We are not prepared to do that. We do not want a strike and have tried every way to avoid it. We regret this, but are resolute in our aim of fairness."

A Virgin captain earns a reported £110.000 a year, while a first officer is paid between £58,000