Brazil flights suspended amid protest

A protest by air traffic controllers forced the suspension of flights from Brazilian airports Friday, stranding thousands of travelers across the country, according to union officials and government media.

Brazil flights suspended amid protest

All 67 commercial airports in Latin America's largest country were closed for takeoffs, but planes in flight were allowed to land normally, the government news service Agencia Brasil said.

As the air traffic controllers walked off the job, flights slowed and thousands of passengers became stranded in airport lobbies across the South American country, the Globo TV network reported.

"All takeoffs are suspended due to the strike by military air controllers. There are a few civil controllers, but they are very few, so in effect all flights are stopped," said Jorge Botelho, president of the Flight Protection Workers Union.

Jose Ulisses Fontenelle, former president of the Flight Controllers Association of Brasilia, said controllers were protesting a decision by the Air Force command, which oversees the nation's air traffic controllers, to transfer top workers to other cities, according to Agencia Brasil.

Fontenelle said the controllers viewed the transfers as a reprisal for a work slowdown that controllers staged in recent weeks, the news service reported.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who flew to Washington on Friday for a meeting with        President Bush, was informed of the protest, Silva's office said.

Planning Minister Paulo Bernardo met with other Cabinet members late Friday and went to the Air Defense Control Center, or Cindacta, to negotiate with the controllers in a meeting called by the Air Force, Agencia Brasil reported.

A lawyer representing the controllers, Normando Augusto Jr., said a deal could be reached by early Saturday morning to stop the strike if the government agrees to cancel the transfers, changes the military status of at least some controllers to civilians and gives them a bonus.

The Air Force said that any controllers who did not attend the meeting would be considered protesters, but it did not say what measures it might take to punish them, according to Agencia Brasil.

During March, more than 30 percent of flights from major airports were delayed, following a failure in air traffic control in Brazil's heavily populated southern and central areas.

Brazil's travel headaches began last year when routes were reduced for Brazil's one-time flagship airline Varig. The cutback followed the Sept. 29 crash between a Gol airlines Boeing 737 and a Embraer Legacy executive jet that killed 154 people, the deadliest air accident in Brazil's history.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16