Cabin crew at Virgin Atlantic are to vote on strike action after rejecting the airline's latest pay offer, their union announced today.
Unite has told the airline it will ballot crew over the next fortnight, leading to the possibility of strike action over the Christmas period. The union said staff believed they had been "undervalued for too long by Virgin".
They have claimed their pay is up to £10,000 below that of British Airways cabin crew flying the same business routes and "considerably less" than their competitors on holiday routes.
Unite national officer Brian Boyd said 60% of Virgin's cabin crew had voted to reject the company's latest offer of 4.8% in the first year and an inflation linked increase in the second year.
Mr Boyd said: "Virgin Atlantic cabin crew believe that their professionalism and dedication has been undervalued for far too long. On the same business routes, cabin crew at British Airways can earn £10,000 more than the cabin crew at Virgin.
"Unite is calling upon Virgin Atlantic to deliver a long term solution to this problem. It has gone on for too long and our members have had enough. Unite has written to the company today to inform them that the union will ballot its members for strike action within the next two weeks."
Unite has 3,200 members at Virgin Atlantic.
Virgin Atlantic said it was "deeply disappointed" that the airline's cabin crew who are members of the Unite union had narrowly rejected the company's latest pay offer. The airline said just over half of its cabin crew belonged to the union.
It said Unite had previously strongly recommended the package to its members. The two-year deal was constructed following extensive feedback from crew and included a 4.8% increase on basic pay in the first year and was linked to inflation for the second year with improved terms, the airline said.
Lyell Strambi, chief operating officer for Virgin Atlantic, said: "Virgin Atlantic is extremely surprised that our recent pay deal, which was twice recommended by Unite to its members, has been rejected. We believe that the pay offer is the best increase in the industry this year.
"We value the huge contribution that our crew make to the airline's success and we know that our crew wouldn't want to damage our reputation for leading customer service.
"However the union has informed us that the next step will be a ballot for industrial action and we are awaiting official notification of this."
Virgin Atlantic employs nearly 5000 cabin crew worldwide offering services to 30 long-haul destinations worldwide.