Pilots at Spanish airline Iberia called 30 days of strikes on Tuesday in a dispute over the start-up of a low-cost carrier they see as a threat to jobs and conditions.
Pilots say the launch of Iberia Express contravenes deals struck when Iberia and British Airways merged to form International Airlines Group.
IAG and Iberia believe starting the new airline is the only way to make the loss-making Spanish unit profitable.
In a statement, the Spanish airline slammed the union as “irresponsible”, called the strike “unjustified, damaging and disproportionate” and invited the pilot’s union to sit down and talk this week in an effort to avoid industrial action.
European airlines are battling high fuel prices, weak demand from cash-strapped passengers and the burden of new taxes on air travel as well as fierce competition from low-cost carriers such as Ryanair.
Iberia Express is designed to complement Iberia’s more profitable long-haul flights, flying to 17 national and European destinations including Dublin, Naples and Amsterdam. Iberia estimates it will attract 2.5 million passengers.
Iberia pilots will strike every Monday and Friday from April 9 to July 20, their union SEPLA said.
“The company intends to divert 40 planes from the main group to the new subsidiary, which would mean the elimination of 8,000 jobs,” SEPLA said.
Pilots held 12 days of strikes between December and March but called off strike action after both parties agreed to mediation. Talks broke down on Sunday.