As the autumn break kicks in, tens of thousands of travellers passing through Brussels and Charleroi airports on Friday could face delays as the police at the border controls are planning a work-to-rule action.
So far at Brussels Airport in Zaventem, which already put out a warning to travellers to factor in extra time to account for the coronavirus checks as it expected an increase in the number of passengers, several flights have been delayed as a result of the action.
“The action started at 6:30 this morning, and there was soon a longer queue at the passport control for non-Schengenflights, this resulted in people waiting in line for around 1.5 hours, and some planes have been delayed by up to 70 minutes,” Nathalie Pierard, Brussels Airport spokesperson, told The Brussels Times.
She added that, for now, the queues have shortened and the waiting times are between half an hour to an hour, however, this could worsen once again. Pierard added the action could last all weekend.
Brussels Airport has since notified people flying to a country within the Schengen area to be present at least two and a half hours in advance, while for destinations outside the Schengen area, this has been expanded to three hours in advance.
Time pressure and false promises
The federal police are holding a punctuality action – a form of job action in which employees do no more than the minimum required by the rules of their contract, or precisely follow all safety or other regulations.
“The people at the border controls will do their job thoroughly, which will, unfortunately, cause long queues,” Luc Breugelmans of the union ACOD told Het Nieuwsblad.
The reason for the action is the breakdown of the wage negotiations, as well as the sometimes precarious working conditions of the police at airports. According to Breugelmans, the police do not get enough time to check travellers’ documents, which “results in officers being rushed and making mistakes.”
“What makes the police really angry is that they are put under pressure to work faster with the few people they have. That can lead to dangerous situations, they should realise that by now,” Breugelmans said.
They are also protesting against staff shortages and the fact that a pay rise, promised following the 2016 attacks at the airport, never materialised.
Breugelmans said that it is a coincidence the action is taking place on Friday when it will be much busier at the airport. “Of course, the effect is greater then. Not nice for the travellers, but better now than next summer.”
Meanwhile, Brussels Airport itself said it will do “everything it can to avoid queues as much as possible.”