A national strike, called by Belgium's main trade unions about a wage dispute, forced Skeyes, the country's air navigation service provider, to close the airspace it controls for 24 hours from 10 o'clock in the evening. local time on Tuesday. Skeyes, formerly called Belgocontrol, manages the Belgian airspace – and part of Luxembourg – below 24,500 feet.
A spokesman from Skeyes told AIN the ANSP had no choice but to take the unprecedented step because of the lack of insight into the staff levels during the industrial action "despite all the efforts of the management" until six hours before the start of the national strike. Given the high uncertainty about filling in some crucial functions in the operational services, management decided that it could only guarantee the safety of air traffic by "not allowing air traffic", Skeyes explained.
The decision affects the flight movements at all Belgian airports, including Brussels Airport and the regional airports of Antwerp, Charleroi, Kortrijk, Liège and Ostend. Skeyes processes an average of 3,000 flight movements per day.
According to Belgian law, Skeyes employees do not have to report their intentions whether or not to work during trade union actions. A mandatory 72-hour individual reporting period for employees who wish to strike is a major requirement of the Airlines for Europe airline group (A4E) as part of its action plan to reduce the impact of ATC strikes on passengers and airlines. Europe has passed ATC strike for 30 days in 2018 and 24 days in 2017, according to A4E.
The strikes have not affected the overflight, because the Maastricht-based control center (MUAC) of Eurocontrol manages the higher airspace of Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and North-West Germany.
Brussels Airlines canceled the entire program of 222 flights last week, with the exception of flights departing from the African and North American continents on 13 February with a planned arrival at Brussels Airport on Thursday 14 February. Ryanair has proactively and inactive deleted its flight program. Belgium – it operates from Brussels Airport and Charleroi Airport – while TUI Fly Belgium chose to divert the planned 36 flights from and to Belgian airports to gateways in France and the Netherlands. Airlines will carry passengers to and from the alternative airports.