Pilots' Strike Grounds Iberia Flights; Another Planned for Next Week

The Associated Press is reporting that Spanish airline Iberia had to cancel approximately a third of its flights on Sunday because of a strike by pilots. The pilots reportedly are concerned about job losses when company planes are diverted for use by Iberia's planned new budget carrier. Another one-day strike is planned for December 29, although the airline has already said that no job cuts are planned among its current 1,600 pilots.

Spain's flagship airline had to ground 91 flights, mostly domestic routes, but no major disruptions were reported at the Madrid hub or other airports. The airline was able to find alternative seats on other Iberia flights or with other carriers for about 80 percent of the travelers. According to the company's website, Iberia is also allowing passengers to change their flight dates without penalty to avoid possible strike impact.

Iberia, Lineas Aereas de Espana, S.A., plans to divert jetliners from money-losing domestic and medium-haul European routes for Iberia Express, which it hopes to launch early next year using lower-earning, newly hired pilots and flight attendants. The company says its plans are for this carrier to have 40 planes in 2015.

Pilots union SEPLA says it ultimately fears job losses among existing staff with the creation of the unit, designed to compete with budget airlines.

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