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Baggage handlers strike at Zaventem: flights cancelled

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A wildcat strike of baggage handlers working for Aviapartner at Brussels Airport has continued into its second day, with 18 flights cancelled at the time of going to press, and another seven planned. Whether the actual total exceeds that number depends on the airlines, and whether they can arrange alternative departure points on time.

The strike was started at around 17.30 on Thursday without any official announcement by the unions, and without following the procedure to make the action legal. Yesterday, 53 flights – both incoming and outgoing – were cancelled. Incoming flights are being diverted to other airports. Cancelled flights from Zaventem simply leave passengers stranded. Last night hundreds of passengers spent the night at the airport, and the Brussels Airport Company brought in camp beds for those who had nowhere else to go.

Baggage handlers are involved in a long-running dispute with the company over staff shortages. The strike only affects those airlines who are partners with Aviapartner, such as Ryanair Easyjet, British Airways and TUIFly. Brussels Airlines, which works with rival Swissport, is not affected.

This morning, there were 11 TUIFly flights scheduled out of Zaventem. Seven of those will leave instead from Charleroi and Liege, and one from Rotterdam, the VRT reports. Passengers will be informed by text message, and transported to the new airport by bus. The other four TUIFly flights will have baggage loaded by management staff.

Today, Friday, some 47,000 passengers are expected to turn up at the airport, in addition to those still waiting. The airport company has drafted in extra stewards to deal with the crowds.

Passengers for flights scheduled by any of the affected airlines are advised to contact their airline to find out if their flight is affected, and if so, to avoid adding to the chaos at the airport. Airlines plan to contact stranded passengers when the situation is resolved or when an alternative can be found.

Talks between Aviapartner and unions were due to start at 10.00 this morning, in an attempt to resolve the situation.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times