Aer Lingus has offered to meet pilots to try to resolve their dispute, days before industrial action begins.

Both sides described the move as “positive” and said they were hopeful that they could meet this week.

The more conciliatory tone came after tense exchanges between Aer Lingus and pilots represented by the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (Ialpa).

Aer Lingus has called the pilots’ industrial action “insidious” and compared it with “blackmail”, while pilots accused the company of threats and “antagonism”.

The pilots, who are looking for a pay rise, had balloted to take part in a work-to-rule action. Their representatives said this would involve pilots not engaging in overtime or out-of-hours duties over five days from Wednesday.

The airline said it would prepare by cancelling 124 flights, affecting 20,000 customers, over the five days.

Shortly after the airline confirmed which flights were cancelled on Friday, an eight-hour strike was announced by the pilots for Saturday June 29, running from 5am to 1pm.

The airline said 120 more flights would need to be cancelled, affecting thousands more passengers.

Of the total 244 cancelled flights, affecting 35,000 passengers, Aer Lingus said it had notified all passengers affected and accommodated 80% with alternatives such as a refund or rebooking.

Aer Lingus on Sunday offered to meet the pilots.

Ialpa president Mark Tighe confirmed the company had asked for a meeting, but had added preconditions on what could be discussed.

“We’re discussing their preconditions at the moment,” he told Newstalk radio on Monday. “I see this as a positive development, but I couldn’t begin to say where it’s going to go.

“I would be very much hopeful it would happen this week,” he said.

He said colleagues in other unions, including representative of cabin crews, had written to the pilots expressing support and had also sent that letter to Aer Lingus management.

Donal Moriarty, chief corporate affairs officer at Aer Lingus, said it was a possibility that passengers could arrive at the airport from Wednesday and find out that their flight had been cancelled.

“That is a possibility unfortunately, because of the nature of the industrial action, there could be close-in cancellations caused by pilot unavailability and refusal to work to their contractual flexibility that they have, so that is absolutely possible,” he told RTE Radio.

Pilots are seeking a pay increase of 24%, which they say equates to inflation since the last pay rise in 2019.

Aer Lingus have said they are willing to offer pay increases of 12.5%, or above if “improvements in productivity and flexibility” are discussed.

Mr Moriarty called on Ialpa to return to the Labour Court or the Workplace Relations Commission to resolve the dispute and said the union with which it is affiliated, Forsa, should support this for passengers’ sakes.

“Aer Lingus is perfectly willing to engage in proposals that would see their pay increase additionally beyond 12.25%, but we have to be able to talk about the things that can do that.

“We would certainly hope that Ialpa will look at their approach in terms of talking about the things that could resolve this dispute and reengage with us during the course of this week to try to resolve it, that’s in our interests.

“If they’re unable or unwilling or incapable of doing that, we should enter the Labour Court or the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and we’re calling upon them to be willing to do that this week.”

Asked about the dispute in Luxembourg, Ireland’s deputy premier Micheal Martin, said “it was shocking the degree to which the needs of those who travel are, in my view, being ignored in the context of this dispute”.

“There’s only one way to resolve this, it’s through negotiations and getting around the table. It is that simple, by the way.

“All disputes end and the most effective way that they end is by utilising the industrial relations machinery that we have available in the state, which is the WRC and the Labour Court.”

He said the Labour Court’s interim recommendation of a 9.5% increase in pay “does form the basis for further negotiations”.

“I would appeal to both sides to get around the table.”

“To think of the many thousands of families and workers across the country, this is the one time in the year that they get an opportunity to travel for their holidays, they’ve planned for these, they’ve saved for these.

“It’s shocking that they’re being ignored and wilfully, if you like, put to one side.

“There is an obligation on the company to make every effort to create momentum around talks and getting an agreement hammered out.”