Strike to hit 5,000 passengers

THIRTY-five flights and 5,000 people will be affected today by a four-hour air traffic controller (ATC) strike after last-ditch efforts failed to avert it.

The strike will affect both the Republic’s airports – Larnaca and Paphos – starting at 1pm.

Twenty-three flights – 12 departures and 11 arrivals – concern Larnaca while five departures and seven arrivals were scheduled to use Paphos airport between 1pm and 5pm.

Airport operator Hermes spokesman Adamos Aspris said an estimated 5,000 people will be affected by the ATC strike and urged the public to be in touch with the airlines and travel agents to avoid further inconvenience.

Aspris expressed regret over the developments and warned of the negative consequences the strike would have.

“Those who opened Pandora’s box at such a difficult economic time should know that the potentially negative consequences will not only concern all the rest but themselves also,” Aspris said.

ATCs have another four-hour strike scheduled for next Wednesday.

Controllers want to be exempted from a raft of austerity measures passed in December in a bid to salvage the ailing economy.

They argue their income comes from the airlines using the island’s airspace and does not affect the state budget. Their pay is governed by a cost-recovery scheme, whereby their salaries are paid by the state, which then recovers the money from the airlines.

In a last ditch effort to avert the strike, Communications Minister Efthymios Flourentzos asked for an arbitrator to be appointed to start negotiations on setting a minimum service in accordance to a non-binding agreement signed in 2004.

But ATCs refuse, saying they are willing to discuss the essence of the dispute and not procedural matters. ATCs, who failed to attend yesterday’s meeting organised by the communications ministry in order to prevent the strike, said that “discussion of such matters could go on until July”.

Aegean Airlines last night announced the re-scheduling of five of its flights today. Flight A3906 from Athens to Larnaca will depart at 3.30pm rather than 2.45pm, A3907 from Larnaca to Athens will depart at 6pm instead of 5.15pm, A3920 will depart Thessaloniki for Larnaca at 3:15pm instead of 2:15pm, A3921 will leave Larnaca for Thessaloniki at 5.55pm instead of 4.55pm, A3758 will depart London for Larnaca at 5pm rather than 4.20pm and flight A3605 from London to Athens will depart at 8.45pm instead of 8.20pm.

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