Virgin Atlantic could be hit by its first ever strike as flight crew, affecting British holidaymakers as they jet off over the summer.

The airline, which has just celebrated 25 years since its first transatlantic flight to Miami, is hopeful it can avoid a walkout by pilots over pay.

Members of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), have been voting on whether to take industrial action against Sir Richard Branson's company in protest at a 4% pay offer. The union said Virgin Atlantic pilots have not had a pay rise since 2008 after agreeing to forgo an increase to help the company, with the expectation of a "fair" hike this year.

Balpa, which represents most of Virgin's 750 pilots, said it had decided to ballot its members because it had expected a bigger pay deal this year. Officials expect a yes vote, which will raise the prospect of strikes in the busy summer months.

Balpa's executive will meet later in the week to discuss the ballot result, and will have to give Virgin seven days notice of any walkouts.

A Virgin spokesman said: "We continue to have talks with Balpa. We have made an offer twice the national average for UK businesses and ahead of the majority of the airline industry. Pilots are an extremely valuable part of our workforce and we hope we can find a resolution."