Pilots at UK leisure carrier Thomas Cook Airlines staged a strike Sept. 8 for improved pay, the first time British flight deck crew have gone on strike in more than 40 years, according to the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA).

Thomas Cook said it was continuing to operate all services, using either non-union staff or BALPA members who did not support the industrial action.

The 12-hour stoppage began at 3 a.m. local time and was staged because of what BALPA called deteriorating wage conditions at the airline. Taking into account inflation, pilots had effectively been suffering wage cuts for several years, BALPA said. It also accused Thomas Cook of making cuts to pilots’ terms and conditions and on taking an intransigent stance during the pay negotiations.

“Going on strike is not something pilots take lightly,” BALPA general secretary Brian Strutton said. “BALPA members have not been on strike since 1974, but with no sensible pay offer on the table Thomas Cook pilots have had no other option.”

Speaking on BBC, Thomas Cook CEO Christoph Debus said pilots had been offered a 1.75% pay raise this year, followed by a 2.25% increase in 2018 and this was on top of automatic 1.8% pay increments.

He said the company operated in an extremely competitive environment: “On many routes, we are flying wing-to-wing with LCCs. We are willing to give a pay raise, but it has to be an appropriate one.”

He said all the airline’s flights had so far operated on time, or had departed ahead of time. There had been some rearrangement of schedules to cope with the strike, he added.

Meanwhile, Danish pilots at Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) called off a strike planned for Sept. 11 after the DPF pilots’ union reached a new, three-year agreement with the company.

The new agreement, SAS said, “sets out a continued common ambition to create a long-term, profitable SAS.

“The agreement is in line with the rest of the Danish labor market and, in addition, the parties have agreed to jointly work on cost-effectiveness, focusing on adapting pilot capacity according to the need for flexibility. The changes to the aviation industry have just begun and the key to continued profitability is to meet the needs and expectations of travelers,” SAS said.

Alan Dron alandron@adepteditorial.com