No deal yet in Polish air traffic that could leave planes grounded


Planes are seen on the ground at Warsaw airport April 16, 2010. REUTERS/Petr Josek/File Photo

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WARSAW, April 22 (Reuters) – Poland failed to reach an agreement with air traffic controllers on Friday in a dispute over pay and conditions, a union spokeswoman said, bringing the airlines closer to what the European authorities have qualified as massive cancellations of flights.

The disruption, affecting not only flights to and from Poland but also those transiting the country’s airspace, could begin on May 1, the day after the end of the notice period for air traffic controllers who have chosen to resign rather than accept new work rules that they say threaten safety.

Talks will resume on Sunday afternoon, the spokeswoman said.

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European aviation safety body Eurocontrol said the Polish Civil Aviation Authority would drastically reduce the number of flights in Polish airspace if no deal was reached.

“As of May 1, the Polish CAA will implement a flight cancellation program to significantly reduce the number of flights to/from Polish airspace,” Eurocontrol said in an emailed statement. .

“It is expected that there will be enough controllers to operate the Warsaw airports approach…with a total capacity of around 170 flights. The two airports in Warsaw were expected to handle an average of 510 flights per day in May.”

According to the Polish Air Traffic Controllers’ Union, 180 of the 206 controllers working in Warsaw have chosen to resign rather than accept the new working conditions. Forty-four of the 180 have already left, and the notice period for the remaining 136 ends on April 30.

The union says proposals including a pay cut for air traffic controllers and an increase from eight to 12 hours in the maximum number of hours they can work in shifts are unacceptable.

“We are fighting for safety and for the return of a culture of safety at work and that means an environment of trust, which is built and not bought,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

Deputy Infrastructure Minister Marcin Horala has previously said that air traffic controllers’ compensation demands were unrealistic given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reduced the fees that the Polish Agency Air Navigation Services (PANSA) collects from airlines.

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Reporting by Alan Charlish and Anna Koper; Editing by Hugh Lawson, William Maclean and Catherine Evans

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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