Air traffic dispute: no flights from Zaventem till 1PM

Flights in and out of Belgian are expected to be badly disrupted today as air traffic controllers take protest action over working conditions and staff numbers.  Dozens of flights have already been cancelled. Brussels Airport says air traffic will be halted between 9:30 and 1PM.

European air traffic control Eurocontrol says Belgian airspace will be closed from 9:30AM till 1PM for flights taking off and landing at Brussels Airport.  Charleroi Airpot too is hit.

Last week representatives of air traffic controllers and management at the Belgian air traffic control agency Skeyes struck a deal that was supposed to end the industrial conflict at the agency.  Unfortunately, in the event only the minority socialist union accepted the deal.  The two other unions that represent most of the controllers threw it out.

By 11AM over 100 flights had been cancelled at Brussels Airport and the disruption is expected to continue till tonight.  Staff were supposed to attend a meeting at 10AM when the Skeyes management would provide more details about the deal.  Air traffic controllers all intended to attend leaving none left to ensure air safety. The mass attendance should also be seen as a rejection of the deal.

In response the management decided to call off the staff meeting, but it’s unclear whether other protest actions are planned. It looks like all traffic will be brought to a standstill.

Skeyes supervises landings and take offs and flights under 7,500 metres. Planes already in the air and above this height are supervised by Eurocontrol in Maastricht.

A spokesman for the Christian union that opposes the agreement held further protests in prospect even after 1PM.  Skeyes management are providing the unions with more details on the accord today, but a spokesman for the Christian union says agreements have been made that don't have the support of the workforce.  The union wants to prevent further disruption, but won't take management provocation.