Protesting Greek airline workers walk onto runway


ATHENS, Greece – Hundreds of protesting Olympic Airlines workers walked onto the main runway of Athens International Airport Tuesday to protest plans to sell the troubled state-owned airline.

The employees, including pilots, air stewards, technicians and support staff, stopped planes from taking off or landing there for about 30 minutes, but the airport said flights were diverted to a second runway and not disrupted.

“There is no impact on the flights, all are using the western runway,” airport spokeswoman Marina Papageorgiou said.

The government says OA has accumulated total losses of around €2.7 billion ($3.85 billion). The European Union last week approved a government plan to privatize the Greek carrier next year.

Olympic’s 8,100 staff are not guaranteed jobs when the airline is sold, but about 4,600 salaried employees will be offered public sector jobs as part of a compensation package worth €1.2 billion ($1.74 billion).

Employees’ unions have said they have no plans to strike but will carry out frequent protests.

“Olympic Airlines is a national matter, it is the flag of the Greeks in the skies, and we will never, as simple workers and citizens, accept that this company stops flying,” said Manolis Patetsos, head of the Civil Aviation Trade Union Federation, who was part of the protest.

Tuesday’s demonstration at the airport is the second such action in a week. Last Thursday, employees blocked a taxiway near the main runway but did not disrupt flights.