Belgian airlines seek up to 10 million euros in compensation
A group of Belgian airlines on Monday lodged papers with Belgian courts seeking up to 10 million euros (14 million dollars) in compensation from the government after a wildcat controllers' strike grounded Brussels flights last month.
Michele Lahaye, secretary general of the Belgian Air Transport Association, which groups Brussels Airlines, CityJet, DHL, Jetair Fly, Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium and TNT Airways, said the complaint was joined by scores more airlines and cargo companies with commercial premises in Belgium.
"We have introduced a demand for compensation" with a Belgian court, she said, adding that "rough estimates" of eight-10 million euros in damages were being claimed, awaiting precise figures in evidence submissions.
A 10-hour shutdown on September 28 grounded Brussels take-offs and landings and forced planes to re-route to neighbouring countries, which the companies said in a statement "cannot remain without consequence."
"Passengers, freight and their carriers cannot be taken hostage," it said, "just because the public service provider Belgocontrol and its competent public authority could not manage the situation properly."
The strike was triggered by long-running disenchantment among staff, but management complained that formal procedures had not been followed to the letter -- with an overnight warning only coming out when controllers sent messages to incoming pilots for the next day.
Bosses at Belgocontrol have been under financial pressure after losses of five million euros last year.
© 2010 AFP