There has been a strong reaction from the tourism and travel industries to next week's threatened 48-hour strike by Aer Lingus pilots.

Tuesday and Wednesday's strike is likely to ground all of the airline's flights in and out of Ireland and affect up to 30,000 passengers.

The Irish Tourist Industry Confederation has called on the pilots to call off the strike, while the Irish Travel Agents Association has called on the trade unions at Aer Lingus to continue to negotiate in a professional manner with the company and not to disrupt plans of the travelling public.

The ITAA said passengers should not be treated with contempt and an all-out strike by pilots would not serve the interests of the Irish travelling public and of visitors from overseas.

The 480 pilots are staging the strike in protest at the pay and conditions being offered by the company at its new hub in Belfast. Up to 200 flights may be grounded by the action.

The planned strike comes a week after the airline's decision to end its long-standing Shannon to Heathrow service and open a new international hub in Belfast.

The Airline Pilots' Association says it is not prepared to accept the second class pay scales and conditions Aer Lingus is planning to offer staff in Belfast.

IMPACT, which represents Aer Lingus pilots, said it is likely that the airline's entire fleet will be grounded during the strike, and warned that there could be further disturbances if no discussions take place.

On RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland, IMPACT's Michael Landers (left) accused the company of breaking collective agreements. He said these agreements apply to all Aer Lingus pilots.

Mr Landers said that no negotiations have taken place with the airline. He added that it was the company's intention to use the Belfast base to lower pay and conditions.

Mannion says action regrettable

Aer Lingus Chief Executive Dermot Mannion said the strike plans were scandalous and could disrupt up to 50,000 passengers.

He said the starting pay for pilots in Belfast would be €113,000, which he said was very much in line with what is paid in the Republic.

He said that the pension scheme for pilots in the Republic was not appropriate to Northern Ireland and Mr Mannion also accused the union of wanting to retain a number of restrictive practices.

In response to the planned strike, Aer Lingus said the action was extremely regrettable and will cause severe disruption calling it an 'act of self centred brinksmanship'.

It says the pilots' action is entirely unwarranted as the Labour Court and Flynn Report recommended that it should be allowed to open new bases outside the Republic on local pay and conditions.