Belgium’s largest airline Brussels Airlines, has recently made an announcement that it will be cancelling 148 flights to and from European destinations this summer, after receiving a threat by employees to hold a three-day strike during its busiest period.
The reason behind this announcement is to decrease the workload of its staff. Pilots and cabin crew members previously spoke out against the huge workloads and called for a guarantee of better well-being for staff, as well as compliance with collective labour agreements.
Discussions between unions and the airline company’s management on Tuesday fell apart without an agreement being made. Warnings had been made that pilots would go on strike for three days if no agreement was made. To mitigate the situation, the airline has decided to cancel several flights.
“The increase in the flight schedule after two unusually quiet years to a full summer schedule will bring with it a heavy workload for all our staff and across the industry,” stated Maaike Andries, Spokesperson for Brussels Airlines. She added that the company regretted reaching no agreement during the talks.
“Our staff has indicated that they are concerned that the workload is too high in these exceptional circumstances.We have listened to them and taken action to ease the workload,” she added.
Among other things, the company hopes to do this 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.”
“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.