Virgin Atlantic pilots have voted overwhelmingly to hold their first strike in the airline's 27-year history amid a long-standing row over pay, their union announced Tuesday.
A total 97 percent voted to strike on a turnout of 94 percent but no dates for action have been set in the hope of resolving the issue with Virgin's tycoon owner Richard Branson, the pilots union BALPA said in a statement.
"For the first time in their history, pilots in Virgin Atlantic have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action over pay," the union said.
Virgin is 51 percent owned by the British entrepreneur Branson and 49 percent by Singapore Airlines.
"The size of the poll and the huge majority for action should send a clear message to Sir Richard Branson," said BALPA general secretary Jim McAuslan.
"I am happy to meet him anywhere and any time to resolve this. My messages are simple: Pilots do not want to strike and are hugely disappointed by the company's approach.
"There has been no UK pilot strike for 32 years. But there comes a time when even moderate people say 'enough'," McAuslan added.
Virgin's pilots are unhappy at the company's offer of a 4.0 percent pay increase for 2011, followed by hikes of 3.0 percent in each of the following two years.
"With no pay increase since 2008, a below inflation offer for 2011 and proposals for 2012 and 2013 that will be sub-inflation, this is now a six-year attack on living standards which has not happened in any other UK airline," McAuslan said.
In reply, Virgin Atlantic said it was "committed" to finding a solution but was also preparing for strike action, putting in place "contingency plans ... to minimise the impact on our customers."
It added in a statement: "We have made an industry-leading offer to BALPA that is double the national average for a UK business.
"We value our pilots enormously and that is why we have offered three guaranteed pay rises in the next two and a half years and a share of company profits," Virgin Atlantic said.