British holidaymakers once again face summer travel chaos as airport strikes threaten to cripple the nation’s favourite holiday destination.
More than 60,000 ground staff at Spanish airports are threatening walkouts on August 18 and August 26, bringing airports in Malaga, Alicante and the Canary Islands to a standstill.
The action, which will hit an already-troubled Spain during its peak tourist season, could cause holiday misery for hundreds of thousands of Britons returning from their annual sunshine break.
The strikes come at a particularly perilous time for the Iberian Peninsula, which is battling huge economic problems and whose tourism industry is only just beginning to recover after three very difficult years.
Strike threats by Spanish airport workers have become a routine annual peril, making British families increasingly wary about booking holidays to the country.
The number of Britons visiting Spain has been falling steadily since 2006. The figure was down by 2.2million last year alone to around 11.5m.
The CCOO, UGT and USO unions said the action will affect all of Spain’s international airports – especially those in popular holiday destinations such as Malaga, Alicante and the Canary Islands.
The workers are protesting after a private company which runs baggage handling at Barcelona’s El Prat airport made four workers redundant.
Three were rehired by the same company, WFS, but the unions called the drastic action in support of the fourth worker, who remains out of a job.
An industry source said yesterday: ‘The unions are threatening to ruin the holidays of hundreds of thousands of people travelling to and from Spain on those days, all because one person has been made redundant. It’s incomprehensible and totally out of all proportion as a response.’
The first day of the strike is timed to coincide with the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid to take part in World Youth Day celebrations. Workers on the Spanish capital’s underground have also called a strike that day in separate industrial action.
A spokesman for the CCOO union said: ‘The airport strike will affect every single Spanish airport, and will involve around 60,000 workers.
‘The strikes have been called because handling companies are repeatedly ignoring agreements they made with unions, and in particular because of the laying off of four workers by WFS at Barcelona airport.
‘When WFS took over the handling contract at the airport they guaranteed there would be no redundancies, then shortly afterwards they made four people redundant.
‘That is unacceptable. For us it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. We’ve been trying to sit down with the company since July 4 but without success. Industrial action is our only option.’
Union bosses will meet today to discuss providing ‘minimum services’ at airports. A spokesman for the Spanish airports authority said: ‘We don’t know what the consequences would be. We are hoping the unions will call off the strikes.’
August is Spain’s busiest month for air travel, with millions of passengers travelling through its airports.
A spokesman for flight comparison website Skyscanner said: ‘While Spain regularly features in our top-ten most searched countries, consumers are wary about planning trips where there is a risk of flight disruption.’