Poland: Warsaw’s air traffic controllers mass quit over pay, severe flight cuts expected

Chopin and Modlin airports are to operate only from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. while as many as 300 flights daily could be canceled

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: Filip Frydrykiewicz
via: rp.pl
Airplanes of Polish airline LOT are seen at the Chopin airport in Warsaw, Poland. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

From May 1, the capital of Poland will be threatened by a shortage of air traffic controllers who can oversee air traffic after a mass resignation by staff over concerns regarding their salaries.

The Polish government issued a new regulation in which it highlights the flight routes to prioritize after 180 out of 208 air traffic controllers employed in Warsaw handed in their resignations. They will expire by the end of April. Air controllers in regional airports are understood not to be affected.

The conflict concerns their salaries. The air traffic controllers do not agree to the limitations that the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency (PANSA) wanted to impose on them in the updated wage regulations in connection with the decrease in air traffic.

Even though negotiations between the air controllers’ union and PANSA are continuing, there has been little progress. Both sides stated that they agree upon one thing — passengers’ safety needs to be ensured, but this requires at least two members of staff in the air traffic control tower at all times. PANSA proposed one person during low traffic hours, however, the negotiations regarding the salaries have stalled.

Warsaw is a critical point that controls not only the skies over the city and the region but also over the entire Polish territory. It means controlling, on average, approximately 1,500 flights daily, down 25 percent on traffic prior to the coronavirus pandemic. The government decided to limit the operations in Modlin and Chopin airports in Warsaw to a couple of hours. It is estimated that as many as 300 flights daily will be canceled. The government immediately designated air routes that will have the priority in these circumstances.

The new government regulation published on Monday reads: “due to limited availability of the air navigation services (…) of the Warsaw area, restrictions to the ability to perform flight operations shall be placed.”

Flight operations in the Warsaw area will take place between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. However, if a plane lands at either of the Warsaw airports and it wishes to depart the same day, it would need to land no later than 3:45 p.m., 1 hour and 15 minutes before the traffic closes.

In order to ensure the highest possible availability of regular air transportation services, flight operations at the Chopin airport in Warsaw will have a priority. Flight from selected airports such as London, Frankfurt, Chicago, New York, Istanbul, Rome, and nearly 30 others will also be prioritized.

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