April 14, 2016: The protest launched by Belgian air traffic controllers on April 12 brought flights to a halt at Brussels Airport less than ten days after the airport restarted services following the March 22 deadly terrorist attacks. Some 200 flights were cancelled – about half of the total scheduled for the day, after around a hundred flights were cancelled on April 13.
Staff from Belgocontrol, Belgium’s air traffic control organisation, were protesting the terms of a labour contract, including the decision to delay the effective retirement age to 58 instead of the existing 55.
Belgocontrol spokesman Dominique Dehaene told the Belga news agency that the organisation had a full team working until 2200 GMT today, but “we expect new problems” after that.
Controllers said they were sick and unable to work, according to a statement from Belgocontrol, which said it “was looking for operational solutions”.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) condemned the strike action by Air Traffic Controllers in Belgium which significantly disrupted flights from Brussels airport.
“This action by air traffic controllers is a kick in the teeth for all the airlines and airport staff who have worked so hard to reconnect Brussels to the world after the appalling terrorist attack just three weeks ago. It is the height of irresponsibility to cut a vital service and doing so without warning can only be seen as malicious.”
“If we cannot count on simple human decency from such highly-compensated professionals then it’s time for governments to find ways to guarantee the availability of air traffic control services,” said Tony Tyler, director general and CEO, IATA.