Hell hath no fury like a pilot scorned. And Iberia's pilots believe the European Commission is scorning them by delaying the ruling on the proposed state injection of Pts130 billion ($1.03 billion).

Fed up with waiting, the pilots decided to turn up the heat by refusing to ratify the concessions they agreed to last December, which are central to the business plan before the Commission.

Sepla, Iberia's pilots union, says the Commission is showing 'a lack of sensitivity' in taking its time. 'When Air France asked for money, the decision took four months. We have waited nine months,' says Captain Gusto Perale.

The lack of funds has forced Iberia to pay out monthly interest of Pts120 million since June, which is eating into the pilots' concessions, Perale claims. The pilots refuse to see their concessions funding the Pts300 billion debt until the state funds are in place.

The pilots also claim the Spanish transport ministry has told them Brussels will not make a decision until November. A Commission official suggests Madrid is delaying the process by taking its time over replying to queries.

The pilots also claim the carrier has not met other conditions of the agreement, which include removing political interference, selling its stake in Aerolineas Argentinas, and completing the restructuring. A senior Iberia official says the restructuring is 60 per cent complete and that the pilots are trying to strengthen their hand.

He does not believe the protest will affect the carrier's chances at the Commission, but admits 'management needs to convince the pilots they must wait for Brussels'.

Source: Airline Business