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Belgocontrol unions shut down airspace over Brussels

10:12 26/06/2014

Passengers travelling from Brussels Airport yesterday were faced with longer queues than usual because of industrial action by staff at Belgocontrol, the national air traffic control agency. Belgocontrol unions closed down Belgian airspace at 18.45, preventing take-offs and landings. The protest was over and the closure lifted at 20.45.

The action led to massive delays and 10 cancellations. While Brussels Airlines and Jetairfly flights were delayed, flights from Ryanair and British Airways were cancelled, as were a number of flights from EasyJet and Vueling.

At one point, Jetairfly had a queue of 2,000 people waiting to depart. The airline had advised passengers to turn up at the airport at the appointed time regardless of the action by air traffic controllers.

Air traffic control staff are protesting cost cuts, which they say will have a negative effect on safety. Unions and management were due to meet this morning at 11.00, and unions would not rule out the possibility that further action will follow.

One passenger affected by the shutdown was US Secretary of State John Kerry, due to attend a Nato summit in Brussels. He was forced to fly to Paris and continue to Brussels by train.

A few flights this morning are delayed. “At the moment, we do not have any information about the actions tomorrow,” read the Brussels Airport website last night. “As soon as we have this information, you will read it here.” Should further action arise, the airport advised passengers to contact their airline.

Brussels Airport considers today, 26 June, as the start of the summer rush, with 39,000 passengers expected, rising to 44,000 on Friday and 42,000 on Sunday and Monday. 

Written by Alan Hope