More than 1200 flights cancelled amid strike

2013-02-19 08:43

Madrid - Workers at Spain's biggest airline, Iberia, on Monday started a five-day strike, with more than 1,220 flights to be cancelled until Friday.

About 235 Iberia flights - as well as those of related carriers Vueling, Air Nostrum and Iberia Express - were cancelled on Monday.

Thousands of striking workers demonstrated at Madrid and Barcelona airports. Some of them used their cars to block access to Terminal 4 in Madrid, according to airport sources.

Hundreds of strikers later stormed Terminal 4, forcing the closure of counters of Iberia and its partner, British Airways.

Police dispersed the group and arrested five people, media reports quoted police sources as saying. One person was reported to have been injured in clashes with police.

The government said Iberia and related airlines were providing minimum services set out in the law. Those make flights to the Balearic and Canary islands compulsory. At least half of all international flights must also be allowed to operate.

Two other work stoppages, for five days each, will follow in March.

Cabin crew and ground employees are protesting a decision by Iberia's owner, International Airlines Group, to cut about 3,800 jobs - nearly 20 per cent of the total - following a merger with British Airways in 2011.

The plan also includes wage cuts and a reduction of Iberia's network capacity by 15 per cent.

Pilots were expected to join the strike from March 4 onwards.

The government says the strike will cost about 10m euros (R117m) daily. Tourism is one of the main sectors bolstering the country's battered economy.

Iberia says it has placed 60,000 of 70,000 affected passengers on alternative flights. The rest were to get their money back.

Some passengers at Madrid airport, however, complained that they had not been informed about the cancellation of their flights. The consumers' association Fuci accused Iberia of having left passengers "defenceless."

The airline says it made losses of 850 million euros between 2008 and September 2012, a situation which forced it to take "drastic measures."

Read more on:    travel international

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