Air sector fears reputational damage after Belgian strikes
Tuesday, 26 March 2019
Several players in the airline industry have expressed alarm after continued strike action has disturbed Skeyes, the body in charge of air traffic control in Belgium, for several weeks. While the financial consequences of the strikes are not precisely known, the damage to the image of the sector is real, said the Belgian Air Transport Association (BATA). “It will take time to regain the confidence of passengers,” it added.
“The sector employs 63,000 people directly and indirectly. Many suppliers have been affected,” said Herman Carpentier of BATA. Also, due to the continuing problems, airlines could decide to relocate (part of) their activities abroad, or hesitate to invest in our country, he added.
The air traffic controllers have already been striking for twelve days this year. Sometimes this meant that flights had to be cancelled – on 13 February no air traffic was possible for a whole day – and sometimes the consequences were limited to delays. “But those delays should not be underestimated. Many Belgian players have a network here, where punctuality is essential,” Carpentier explains.
For airlines, the unpredictability of actions at Skeyes is problematic. “You can not take precautionary measures, and for some freighter, it’s also a big problem,” says Carpentier. The cost for the aviation sector is not yet quantified but it amounts to at least several million euros, he added.
BATA sent a letter last week to the Minister of Mobility, François Bellot, asking the government to intervene “to ensure the stability of air activity.” The sectoral association is advocating the establishment of a minimum service, such as SNCB, and the introduction of a service contract, including performance obligations for Skeyes and possible compensation if these performances are not reached.