More than 3,000 cabin crew employed by airline Virgin Atlantic are being urged to back strike action over a pay row.
Unite, the trade union representing the Virgin Atlantic staff, said it had been left with "no alternative" but to ballot workers over strike action which threatens to disrupt services in the new year.
The union is holding a simultaneous industrial action ballot of staff employed by British airports operator BAA, over plans to close the company's pension scheme. Unite claims the two strike votes raise the prospect of "severe airport and airline disruption" at the start of 2008.
However Virgin Atlantic today stressed its flights over the Christmas period would be unaffected.
It also pointed out the pay deal it had offered staff had twice been recommended by Unite to its members. The airline said the two-year wage offer, which it claims amounts to an increase of around 8.3 per cent in basic pay, was rejected by 1,200 staff out of a total cabin crew workforce of 5,000.
Virgin Atlantic chief operating officer Lyell Strambi said: "Unite strongly recommended this pay offer to their members because it is a very good deal, especially given the challenging environment we operate in.
"The pay offer reflects the huge contribution that our cabin crew make to the airline's success and we have been told by Unite that it is the best to be offered by an airline this year," he added.
But Unite insists pay for Virgin Atlantic's crew members lags behind other airlines, claiming their British Airways counterparts earn up to £10,000 a year more working on the same air routes.
Unite's national officer for aviation, Brian Boyd, said: "Our member's do a professional and responsible job for one of the countrys highest regarded airline[s] and their pay should reflect this.
"At the moment Virgin Atlantic's cabin crew earnings are far less than their comparators on the main business routes at British Airways and clearly this is no longer acceptable to our members."
The strike ballots of both BAA and Virgin Atlantic staff close on December 20th.
Responding to news of the vote on industrial action by its staff last week, BAA branded the threat of a strike "unnecessary".
"BAA has given clear and unequivocal assurances that existing employees will not be affected by the end of the final salary pension scheme and that its replacement for new employees will be of the highest quality," said a spokesman for the company, which owns several airports including London's Heathrow and Gatwick.