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Travelers Advisory: European Controllers Plan Strikes on Wednesday - (6/18/2002)

WASHINGTON - The National Air Traffic Controllers Association is warning air travelers in the United States with European destinations about a series of planned strikes by air traffic controllers on Wednesday to protest transportation ministers' plans for consolidation of airspace which could lead to privatization.

French controllers are planning an all-day walkout. In addition, Greek controllers are planning a four-hour strike and Italian controllers will walk out for one hour. Those controllers are joined by colleagues in Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Ireland, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Maastricht (Netherlands) Upper Area Control Centre in the Air Traffic Controllers European Union Co-ordination (ATCEUC), which has called for a European industrial action on Wednesday.

Controllers are protesting the way a Europe-wide "single-sky" plan for air traffic control would be implemented. It would bring controllers under unified supervision so airlines can fly routes that aren't defined by European borders, but it would also place financial incentives ahead of safety. The ATCEUC fears the plan will lead to privatization of air traffic control, job losses and reduced air safety.

Said ATCEUC in a Tuesday statement: "We are disappointed with the proposed regulations. Their objective is clear: Apply to air traffic control the single market rules, as for any other industry. This will turn the European skies into a market in which the only prevailing element is competition between providers, and in which the only element worth fighting for is cost effectiveness." Besides the financial incentives, ATCEUC's opposition to the Single Sky regulations includes concerns about functional blocks of airspace.

Says the ATCEUC: "These economic blocks of airspace are, in fact, a way to redistribute the European airspace in order to maximize the potential profits of some Air Navigation Service Providers. The construction of the European airspace should not be hampered by considerations linked to profits, because safety is not profitable." Travelers are advised to expect long delays and travel disruptions due to Wednesday's planned action.

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