Virgin Atlantic could face a strike over the Christmas period from its pilots in a dispute over proposed changes to their benefits.

The Professional Pilots Union (PPU) represents approximately 450 of Virgin Atlantic’s 800 pilots, but the airline does not recognise the group and instead negotiates with the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA).

However, PPU members are angry about a letter sent by CEO Craig Kreeger, who is stepping down at the end of the year, that explained proposed changes to the terms and conditions of their employment, according to the Financial Times.

The changes include a cap on income protection, cancelling a dependants’ pension scheme and reducing corporate pension contributions.

The PPU claims the moves are a “cost-cutting exercise” that is part of an ongoing dispute and has warned its Virgin Atlantic members would be balloted on strike action.

BALPA says it has rejected the airline’s proposals but is not considering industrial action at this point.

Steve Johnson, PPU spokesperson and former senior Virgin Atlantic captain, said: “Our efforts to take part in the benefits review have been repeatedly resisted by the company. Our members have mandated the PPU to negotiate, but for the last two years it appears the company has chosen to ignore the majority of its pilots and deal only with a union that speaks for the minority. That’s a fundamental mistake.”

However, Johnson said the union would prefer to avoid industrial action because it would cause severe disruption over Christmas.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson responded: “We have been working closely with our recognised trade union BALPA in relation to a proposal regarding a benefits review, and are confident that this will be completed in a satisfactory meaner. We’ve always been willing in principle to recognise the PPU, but we won’t agree to their demand that we derecognise BALPA and disenfranchise the hundreds of pilots who belong to this union.”

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