Albania flights resume after 2-day airport closure
TIRANA, Albania (AP) – Commercial flights resumed Friday at Tirana International Airport in Albania after being stranded for two days by a strike by air traffic controllers.
The first commercial passenger flight left the airport for Italy on Friday at 9:05 am (0705 GMT).
Only “essential” flights took place the day before. These included a plane carrying a batch of vaccine against the virus.
The government hired Turkish and Greek controllers to replace local controllers. The inspectors, who are seeking a pay rise, have avoided calling their action a strike, as this is not allowed by Albanian law, instead declaring a temporary inability to work due to stress.
Prime Minister Edi Rama said two groups of controllers from Turkey and Greece “will work together to continue the operation”. Many Albanian controllers have agreed to return to work, he added.
The government considered the walkout of the controllers to be illegal.
Three controllers were arrested and are being questioned on suspicion of post abuse. Twenty-seven others were also interviewed.
The controllers union says their pay has been cut by 62% over the past year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the same period, Albania’s air traffic fell by 57%, according to Infrastructure Minister Belinda Balluku.
The minister said air traffic controllers were paid $ 2,490 per month, five times the country’s average salary or about $ 500.
The incident has also become a political issue as there are parliamentary elections in the country on April 25.
Follow Llazar Semini on https://twitter.com/lsemini