Greek air controllers' protest grounds flights in Cyprus, dealing blow to tourism

10:58, July 27, 2010      

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Protest action by Greek air traffic controllers since Sunday has brought chaos to flights in and out of Cyprus and has dealt a blow to tourism struggling to recover from a slowdown.

Air traffic controllers in Greece launched a work-to-rule protest after their plans to stage rolling 24-hour strikes had been ruled by a Greek court as illegal.

Their demands include better wages and the recruitment of more staff, which counter austerity and reform measures introduced by the Greek government.

Up to Monday afternoon, almost 400 flights, mostly involving Cyprus Airways planes, have been affected, with 43 flights having been canceled and about 350 carried out with delays of up to six to 12 hours.

The work-to-rule action by Greek air controllers means that only flights up to the official air space capacity of Greece are serviced, that is only one-half of the normal 180 flights per hour are allowed though.

Most foreign airliners use alternative air routes over Turkey, but Cypriot planes rely entirely on Greek air space to fly to European destinations and back, because of a ban imposed by Turkey since its 1974 military intervention.

Turkey refuses to open its air space to Cypriot planes, despite an agreement with the European Union with Turkey to extend recognition to all EU countries as part of its bid to join the bloc.

Cyprus Airways announced that they have lost more than half a million euros in the past two days, as it canceled some of its flights to European destinations and had to care for stranded passengers.

"We had to offer either hotel accommodation or meals to thousands of passengers have been stranded in airports," said the airliner's spokesman Kyriakos Kyriakou.

Many flights had been rescheduled when the strike started Sunday, but in most cases the expiration of the 12-hour air crews shift time finally led to the cancellation of flights.

The Cypriot authorities said they will ask their Greek counterparts and Eurocontrol to accept more flights from and to the island in consideration of its absolute reliance on Greek air space.

Cypriot Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister Antonis Paschalides said the controllers action in Greece is dealing a blow to tourism, at a time when there were signs of a modest recovery from a 20 percent slow-down.

He said thousands of reservations have been canceled and ordered tourism officials to prepare a full report.

Source: Xinhua

(Editor:李牧(实习))

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