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Vueling and its pilots agree to waive days off to avoid canceling flights

A Vueling plane at Barcelona-El Prat airport Getty Images

The pilots Vueling have agreed to give up their days off so that the planes can continue flying, despite the ravages of the sixth wave of the pandemic. As reported by the Spanish Union of Airline Pilots (Sepla), the measure is voluntary and seeks to guarantee the operation of all scheduled flights during the Christmas campaign, despite the growing evolution of the number of infections by covid.

Sepla refers to a “shortage of personnel”, but, according to the company, the casualties of pilots due to contagion or forced confinement after contact close to the virus, “they have not caused cancellations, nor will they cause them.” The airline maintains that the measure allows anticipating the impact that covid may cause in the crew's quadrant. Vueling has a staff of 300 pilots, but the Covid effect is added to the ERTE that the company has in force and that reduces the working days of each pilot.

Sepla affirms that, without ERTE, it would not have been necessary to resort to the exchange of staff holidays, not even in the current situation, with an escalation of infections that forces them to leave on the ground to a part of the professional staff. The union affirms that there have been “very numerous medical losses in the company”, which threatens “many of the flights planned for the Christmas season.”

The representatives of the pilots point out the agreement reached with the company is nothing more than “a temporary patch” that reveals the deficiencies caused by the ERTE that they have suffered for months, and that reduces the working hours the pilots between 6 and 10% compared to a normal time. In August, the Sepla already denounced that several airlines, in particular Iberia, Vueling and Air Nostrum, are improperly using the figure of temporary employment regulation files to reduce costs since, despite the recovery of activity, 85% of the pilots are still included in the ERTEs of the airlines based in Spain. The union denounced during the summer campaign that the majority of pilots saw their flight activity increased “in a much greater proportion than their working hours”, that is, they worked at a rate similar to that of the summer of 2019, but on fewer paid days.

Vueling is based at Barcelona airport, where it controls a third of the flights. According to the company, in November 2019 it offered 83 routes from El Prat, and this year no more than 75. On average, two years ago there were 1,100 weekly flights, and currently there are close to 750. According to data published by Aena, the month November confirmed that the Josep Tarradellas is in charge of the national airports that have lost the most activity, compared to the pre-ndemic era. The 2.3 million passengers in the penultimate month of the year are 36.2% less than the data for November 2019.

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