Belgium's largest airline Brussels Airlines has confirmed that it will be cancelling 148 flights to and from European destinations this summer, in a move to placate employees who threatened a three-day strike during its busiest period.
The cancellations aim to reduce the workload on staff. Pilots and cabin crew previously spoke out against the demanding work conditions and called for staff well-being to be guaranteed, as well as compliance with collective labour agreements.
Discussions between unions and company management on Tuesday fell through without reaching an agreement. Warnings of a three-day pilot strike were issued if negotiations failed to lead to an agreement. In an effort to appease crew, the airline has decided to cancel several flights.
"Going from an unusually quiet two years to a full summer schedule will bring a heavy workload for all our staff and across the industry," stated Maaike Andries, Spokesperson for Brussels Airlines. She added that the company regretted that no agreement was reached during the talks.
"Our staff have indicated that they are concerned that the workload is too high in these exceptional circumstances. We have listened and taken action to ease the workload."
The company hopes that by cancelling 148 flights (74 return flights to and from European destinations), however, it is expected to have an impact on less than 1% of the passengers, and "sufficient alternatives will be made available," which will be communicated to passengers on Thursday.
"If the customer is not satisfied with the proposed alternative, we will look at other solutions together. Finally, if no solution is found, the passenger can always request a refund."
The company has also increased its recruitment drive, resulting in 225 additional cabin crew members being taken on board, to decrease the workload.
Andries added that the company hopes the discussions with the social partners can still be continued "in order to find effective solutions for the upcoming summer."
- Brussels Airlines employees threaten three-day strike
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"A strike at the beginning of the summer would come at the worst possible time for our passengers, for all our colleagues and for our company which is still trying to climb out of the red every day."
The airline's pilots and cabin crew went on strike at the end of December last year. At the time, unions argued that staff were not getting the rest they needed, and criticised the lack of respect from management.