Airlines in the UK are going through a difficult phase and that too, during the holiday season, which is estimated to cause inconvenience to thousands of passengers and airline companies. The strikes in Belgium and recent breakdown of National Air Traffic Services’ have led to a large number of delays and cancellations in the UK. While the remedial measures for the problems created by the temporary breakdown of NATS system are being undertaken, the extent of the effect of Belgian strike is yet to be mapped.
Brewing trouble in Belgium
Protesting against Prime Minister Charles Michel’s austere plans to reform pensions and budget cuts to save about 11 billion Euros in five years, various unions closed all offices and factories and grounded all modes of transport to and from Belgium, including air services. The government’s decision to take certain measures to balance the country’s national debt and budget by 2018 triggered the first major nation-wide general strike in the last decade.
All modes of transportation – air, land and rail were stopped and people were strongly advised not to travel during these days as an expression of protest against the government. About 600 flights were cancelled at the Brussels Airport as no planes were allowed to land or take off from various airports at Brussels, Charleroi, Liege, Antwerp and Ostend. Operator of high speed rail services between London and Brussels, Eurostar, joined the league of protestors terminating trains to Brussels at Lille in France.
Airlines worst affected by the strikes
Airlines, airline operators and air passengers in the UK were massively hit by the strikes. As the strikes continued through a third week, popular UK airline companies such as British Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair have started feeling the heat. British Airways is cancelling all return flights to Brussels from Heathrow while Ryanair has cancelled the scheduled flight to Charleroi from Manchester.
A spokesperson of British Airways said that they are exploring every possible alternative to minimize the inconvenience caused to customers due to the situation in Belgium. He advised all the estranged customers to keep checking the company’s website for any updates on the availability of flights. Managing Director of Charleroi airport, Jean-Jacques Cloquet, said the strike is proving to be a disaster for passengers and airports.
The protest had started earlier last month as a movement of unions including liberal GGSLB, Socialist FGTB and Christian CSC. A march was organized with around 100,000 people, which in turn lead to violent protests in the capital. The transport strike was organized as a climax of the protests that were being held in different parts of the country.
The airline companies in the UK were already neck-deep in trouble with the Dec 12 system breakdown, dealing with compensation demands and complaints by various passengers and the strikes are going to be salt in their wounds. Airline stocks also fell with the news about the breakdown and strike adding to the losses incurred.