Social unrest at Brussels Airport, morning flights disrupted by spontaneous strike

About 80 percent of the workforce of baggage handlers Aviapartner at Brussels Airport downed tools for some hours this morning. The sudden strike action caused delayed flights and long waiting times, but the strike was stopped around 9 a.m. Staff are complaining about high work pressure as vacancies are not being filled. The consequences of the strike may be felt until the afternoon.

The spontaneous action started this morning at 6:30, Brussels Airport confirmed. "As a result, baggage handling and operations will be delayed. We do everything in our power to limit the impact of this action and apologise for any inconvenience", a statement on Twitter said this morning.

Flights were being delayed for two hours or more; about 20 incoming and 20 departing flights were affected. Four flight were cancelled. 

Tour operators TUI were among those that were hardest hit. Brussels Airport said it would be possible that flights will be cancelled or depart without luggage, but the industrial action was suddenly stopped after unions had spoken with the management. They were promised that the issue of high work pressure will be addressed soon.  

Aviapartner is taking care of TUI, Ryanair and Lufthansa flights among others. They are handling about half of all flights at the airport. Today, about 115 flights are using Aviapartner services. 

Operations on the tarmac, the cleaning of aeroplanes and pushbacks of aircraft were also being disturbed. Check-in services were not hit.

What now?

Brussels Airport does not expect major problems for the busy summer season, even though 640 vacancies still have to be filled. However, as workers are very unhappy with the situation, more strike action cannot be ruled out. 

The meeting between trades unions and management next week will give a first indication about which way it is going. But it remains of the utmost importance that the hundreds of vacancies are being filled to guarantee a normal schedule. 

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