Switzerland’s second-busiest airport, Geneva, was hit by a strike, causing flight operations to be suspended for two days, significantly impacting summer travel plans and forcing travelers to explore alternative options.
In a disruptive move, airport employees went on strike from 6:00-10:00 am (0400 GMT and 0800 GMT), resulting in the cancellation of dozens of flights at the airport.
Close to the expected conclusion of the strike, airport employees gathered outside the terminal and decided to prolong the walkout until the end of Saturday, exacerbating the already significant disruptions to flight schedules.
The airport spokesperson, on Thursday, mentioned that the anticipated four-hour walkout at the airport, known for its significance as a hub for the budget airline EasyJet, was likely to result in the disruption of approximately 8,000 passengers.
In a tweet on Friday, the airport disclosed that several international flights from North America and the Middle East were intentionally delayed to ensure their arrival after the scheduled conclusion of the initial strike.
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The initiation of the strike was a direct response to the airport’s board approving a new wage policy on Thursday, which was met with opposition and disagreement from the staff.
To regulate access, a heightened presence of police and security personnel was observed in front of the terminal, allowing only passengers with flights scheduled for after the initial strike period to enter. Also, striking workers and trade unionists expressed their dissent by protesting outside the main entrance of the terminal.
This strike marks a significant milestone as it is the first-ever labor strike by staff directly employed by the airport, rather than subcontractors. The strike includes various roles, including air traffic controllers and ground staff responsible for guiding planes along the tarmac, as reported by Swiss airline.
‘In Switzerland, strikes are very rare’ as they may be called only after a process of consultations, said Claire Pellegrin, head of the airport staff commission.
ZIt’s the last option that we never thought we’d get to,’ she said.
According to a trade unionists, they find it challenging to comprehend how they reached the current impasse in the negotiations.
‘The airport is a profitable business which enjoys a monopoly and is attacking the conditions of its staff,’ Joining the strikers in a display of solidarity, Pierre-Yves Maillard, the head of the Swiss Trade Union Confederation (USS) said.
The aviation industry has been particularly cautious to prevent a recurrence of the disruptions witnessed at European airports last year, considering the significant number of passengers—approximately 6.8 million—who traveled through Geneva airport between January and May, as per official statistics.
The travel industry faced immense challenges in dealing with a surge in travel while grappling with a severe shortage of staff, which resulted from the layoffs during the Covid pandemic.
Passengers had to endure long lines, instances of misplaced luggage, and flight delays. Staff strikes have also impacted other European airports and airlines.