Only 10 days after the murderous attacks at Brussels Airport, Belgian air traffic controllers at Belgocontrol have initiated a wildcat strike. The impact on the cargo operation seems to be limited.
According to BAC’s Head of Cargo Steven Polmans most freighters have been able to land or take-off, even if some delays had to be accepted. “So in the short term, the damage is limited. On the
longer term these egoistic actions are deplorable and inexcusable,” says Steven. “When passenger aircraft are not allowed to fly, there is –of course – always an impact on belly cargo.”
Lack of decency and respect
The airport organisation ACI Europe has issued a statement expressing its outrage at the timing and inappropriateness of such industrial action. “Shutting down the Belgian skies just 10 days after the reopening of Brussels airport following the terrorist attacks of 22 March shows a total lack of decency and respect for the airport and the various aviation partners based there who are all working hard to restore air connectivity. Considering what is at stake, this effectively amounts to intentional damage to the Belgian people, at a time when the country is united in its grief and its resolve,” it says.
ATC reform badly needed, says ACI
Olivier Jankovec, Director General, ACI EUROPE said: “There are no words to describe how thoughtless, irresponsible and damaging this industrial action is. What the Belgian air traffic controllers are doing isn’t so much adding insult to injury, as injury to injury. And there is no way that they cannot be conscious of that. We are calling on the Belgian government to immediately pursue all available options to ensure that air traffic control services are restored as quickly as possible. This latest episode in the ongoing saga of ATC strikes is yet another reminder of how much air traffic management in Europe needs reform.”
Marc Descheemaecker; chairman of the Board of BAC, told Flemish Radio 1 that a meeting has been planned later this week to discuss possible measures BAC may take. “After the attacks of 22 March we have experienced a lot of compassion,” he said. “Now the lack of understanding is complete.”
The action was organized by members of the Gilde voor Luchtverkeersleiders (BGATC), who do not agree with a reform of their pension scheme. The BGATC represents some 80 of a total of 300 air traffic controllers.
Transport minister resigns over critical EC report
Last week Belgian Federal Transport Minister Jacqueline Galant resigned because she had disregarded a report issued by the European Commission criticizing the insufficient airport security controls in Belgium. Ms Galant at first said that she had never received the report at all, but she was later forced to admit that a summary had been sent to her administration. It was Galant who had granted traffic rights to Ethiopian Cargo to launch direct flights between Brussels and three Asian destinations in her own right, bypassing the Aviation Authority. Earlier the head of the Federal Service Mobility Laurent Ledoux had also quit because he could no longer collaborate with Galant. Also according to Ledoux the ATC administration Belgocontrol acts as ‘a state within the state’.
She has been replaced by François Bellot, a civil engineer by training, who can boast some experience in the aviation industry. He was part of the investigation commission after the bankruptcy of flag carrier Sabena.
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels