Tuesday 26 March 2019

Over 400 flights cancelled as Belgium closes air space for 24 hours

A nationwide strike has forced the closure of Belgium's air space and airports until 9pm GMT

Capital of cool: Brussels' Grand Place
Capital of cool: Brussels' Grand Place

PA & Pól Ó Conghaile

Belgium's air traffic control authority has shut down the country's air space for 24 hours due to staffing uncertainties caused by a nationwide strike.

The authority, called skeyes, said it was forced to shut down its air space from 9pm GMT on Tuesday until 9pm GMT Wednesday.

At least 400 flights were set to be cancelled over the period, with an estimated 50,000 passengers said to be affected.

Several Ryanair and Aer Lingus flights between Dublin and Brussels have been cancelled as a result - passengers are advised to contact their airline, and should be notified by email and/or SMS if their flight has been affected.

An estimated 650 flights pass through the main Brussels airport each day.

"Although the terminal remains open, we kindly ask our passengers not to come to the airport on Wednesday," a statement posted on its website said.

The airport in the nearby city of Charleroi, which handles about 140 flights daily, was also ordered closed on Wednesday due to the strike.

Passengers whose flights are cancelled are entitled to a refund or re-routing and certain care and assistance, under EU regulations.

This is the second air traffic control (ATC) to affect passengers in Europe this year, and it follows over 30 ATC strike days in Europe last year, according to Airlines For Europe (A4E), Europe's largest airline association.

"These strikes are increasingly damaging not only local economies and tourism, but the reputation of European aviation among passengers," it said.

Belgium's rail and other public transport systems were also due to be hit during the 24-hour strike called by unions after the breakdown of wage talks.

Police, postal and hospital services are also affected. However, international trains like the Eurostar, Thalys and TGV services are unlikely to be disrupted.

European air traffic authority Eurocontrol will manage all flights over Belgian territory above an altitude of 24,600ft.

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