Iberia is the second major airline in less than two months to sue its pilots, but American Airlines pilots have jumped to their help.

Spanish pilots' union Sepla, which has announced a halt in months of escalating industrial action, is facing a possible fine of Ptas4.3 billion ($29 million) for what Iberia calls "disproportionate" damages. While pilots kept to the 95% service minimum required by Spanish law, the company claims they deliberately timed the latest round of strikes in early April to coincide with an air traffic controllers' dispute and Easter, creating maximum disruption. The compensation claimed does not cover losses caused by more than 100,000 cancellations of advance bookings and the negative impact on the company's image at a time when it is seeking private investment.

The US Allied Pilots Association (APA), which is seeking a drastic reduction in the $58.7 million damages claimed by American Airlines for the "sick-out" in February, has intervened in the dispute. In its capacity as chair of the oneworld cockpit alliance, which includes Sepla now that Iberia has joined oneworld, APA has urged Iberia management to take a more "constructive" attitude in the dispute. APA argues, like Sepla, that parts of the new labour contract signed in October have not been ratified, and therefore it is the management, not the pilots, that are in the wrong. APA members work for an airline that is now a 1% shareholder of Iberia,

Sepla is also demanding the hiring of pilots at Binter Mediterraneo, but the regional subsidiary is in the process of being sold for Ptas5-8 billion to "financial groups in the Canary Islands", according to Iberia.

Binter, which made a profit for the first time last year, will be turned into a franchise partner in the hope of repeating the success of Iberia's regional franchise partner, independently owned Air Nostrum.

Source: Airline Business