Virgin Atlantic said it will operate a near-normal service after cabin crew volunteers came forward to offer assistance during planned strike action.

The airline said crew have been emailing and phoning special hotlines to offer their help and it will now run nine out of 10 flights during the strikes which are expected on January 9-10 and 16-17.

Virgin Atlantic chief operating officer Lyell Strambi said: “Virgin Atlantic is committed to resolving this dispute but the only way our cabin crew are going to see any form of pay increase in future is by joining the hundreds of volunteers coming to work on the planned strike days and ensuring our customers get to their destinations.”

Earlier this week, Virgin chairman Sir Richard Branson sent a letter out to staff stating that if they wanted more pay than Virgin could afford they should “consider working elsewhere”.

The union, Unite has recommended crew accept the two-year pay deal worth 8.3%.