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Poland prepares to restrict flights to and from Warsaw – POLITICO

WARSAW – Polish passengers brace for chaos this weekend.

From Saturday, Poland will limit the operating hours of both Warsaw airports due to an ongoing dispute between the country’s air traffic control authorities and air traffic controllers over pay and working conditions.

The move means that Warsaw Chopin, Poland’s largest airport, and the smaller Modlin Airport in the north of the city, which serves Ryanair, will only operate between 9:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., resulting in a suspension of around 300 flights per day will result.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki gave one command Restriction of airport operations due to the threat of more air traffic controllers resigning if talks with the Polish air traffic control authority (PANSA), which are currently deadlocked, do not lead to a result.

“If there are not enough controllers, the flights have to be restricted,” Morawiecki said called on Tuesday.

Morawiecki also attacked the controllers: “This is a narrow professional group that earns a lot in Warsaw, and I think they could compromise and agree here.” He added that they have “some of the best working conditions in Europe” and dismissed point out that they only work 30-hour weeks.

Affected airlines have threatened PANSA with compensation if they are unable to fly out of the Polish capital.

At the heart of the problem is the refusal of air traffic controllers in Warsaw to comply with the new wage rules. PANSA called in January, this monthly salary, which on rare occasions reached 100,000 złoty (€21,500), was “impossible” to sustain. The new rules provide for a maximum payment of PLN 45,000 per month.

Of 208 air traffic controllers working earlier this year, 44 resigned in February and another 131 are reportedly preparing to leave by the end of April.

The Prime Minister’s order also includes a priority list of 32 airports with connections to Warsaw, starting with London’s three airports – Heathrow, Luton and Stansted – followed by the main airports of Frankfurt, New York, Chicago, Paris, Brussels, Istanbul and Rome. There are also flights from Warsaw Chopin taking precedence over those from Modlin.

Poland’s airports in Szczecin and Rzeszów were also on the list, with the latter being the key point for sending military and other aid to war-torn Ukraine.

“It is very likely that we will be forced to cancel up to 75% of scheduled flights or change flight times,” called LOT, Poland’s national airline.

But its competitors fret that the restrictions favor the Polish state-owned airline.

“The Prime Minister has arbitrarily selected 32 destinations served from Warsaw to give them priority in the event of the expected ATC capacity collapse on May 1,” Ryanair said in a statement.

According to Ryanair, the exclusion of routes to Stockholm or Milan is “inexplicable,” as is the inclusion of “LOT’s routes to Berlin and Vilnius, which are easily accessible in just a few hours by train or road.”

The low-cost airline called on EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean and Competitions Chief Margrethe Vestager to “intervene today to ensure that the fundamental principles of EU law are respected by the Polish Prime Minister and to prevent this blatant discrimination against Ryanair and our customers.”

The commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Talks between the air traffic controllers’ union ZZKRL and PANSA resumed on Tuesday morning.

PANSA said the new salary rules are an element of its post-pandemic modernization plan, “implemented in response to the unprecedented crisis in the airline industry and the agency’s difficult financial situation.”

Warsaw-based air traffic controllers manage around 3,000 flights daily, 700 of which cross Polish airspace. Of those, about 300 will have to be rerouted due to a lack of air traffic controllers, Eurocontrol, the EU’s airspace manager, said in an emailed statement.

The agency is consulting with its partners on how best to manage these flights – adding to the already difficult air traffic situation in the region following the closure of Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian airspace due to sanctions and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“If no solution is found, there will be very negative consequences for the European air transport network,” said Eurocontrol.

Warsaw Chopin is Poland’s busiest, with Almost 100,000 operations a third of all traffic in Poland in 2021. Still, traffic in Warsaw has only reached 50 percent of operations compared to 2019 before the pandemic.

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