That's the holiday weekend completely ruined then

Something unthinkable happened this weekend. Spain just completely ground to a halt on puente weekend - one of the biggest holiday weekends of the year.

Most people had five days off work. Even me, oh joy! But for any poor suckers who had to catch a flight it all turned to shit, as Spanish aerospace completely shut on Friday evening, just when most of them were setting off to leave.

And it wasn't because of the cold weather, there was no snow or anything like that, oh no. The 2,400 Spanish air traffic controllers - many of whom earn in excess of 700,000 Euros a year - went on strike, throwing the country into complete chaos.

The controllers - who are the highest paid in Europe - have been in dispute with the government for over a year about the privatization of Spain's state airport authority AENA.

A private organization will not tolerate their work monopoly, they think (yep, got to agree with them there) so it's something they've been wanting to avoid. So imagine their horror when on Friday the government approved the sale of 49 percent of the AENA and put a cap on the number of hours the controllers could work per year.

So what did they do? They booked a conference room in a hotel near the airport, and at 5pm staged a completely unannounced mass walkout, saying they'd already worked over the maximum hours this year. The result: Spanish airspace was completely closed, royally ballsing up the whole weekend for everyone.

What followed was total chaos, and highly annoying. If you've ever had a plane cancelled, you'l know what I mean. you feel like you want to stab someone in the eyes, and everyone is blaming everyone else. Well it was pretty obvious whose fault things were here.

but hang on a minute. If the government had an inkling of what would happen when they signed this new agreement, why the hell did they do it just before puente weekend? Couldn't they have waited till next week?

The Spanish economy is in such a bad state right now. By making this new agreement, the government are just trying to bring down last year's budget defect of 11 per cent. With their new capped wages, the controllers would make much more reasonable (by who's standards?) 200,000 Euros. Clearly that's not enough for them.

The bad thing is that our biggest industry is tourism, and this will be hitting it badly. And may put off any prospective tourists from coming here. Maybe Portugal is a safer option?

Now Madrid is in a "State of Alert" for the first time since our new Consituation was signed in 1978.

The military have been sent in, and the controllers - who have signed in to their shifts, but are refusing to work - have been threatened with prison if they don't go back to work. One tearful worker on the news said men with guns had marched into their headquarters and told them to get back to work.

"What kind of atmosphere is that to work under?" she sobbed.

Now I don't have much sympathy, but she does have a point. These people have lives in their hands. if they mess up, they could wipe out two planes in a second.

Would you want to fly knowing the person guiding your plane safely along was emotional and liable to make mistakes?

Luckily, me and the bloke are skint, so going away was not an option for us. but in my group of friends, many have been affected. PB can't take her plane to New York, meaning she's missing out on the trip she's been looking forward to for months. Science Chick is stuck in England, as is Jim. And the bloke's parents can't spend the weekend in London. Anthony, my work colleague is stuck in Bulgaria.

You just have to log into Facebook to see more and more angry people posting their stories.

The Public Works Minister says it'll take 24 to 48 hours for air traffic to return to normal - by which time everyone's holiday plans will be well and truly ruined.

Science Chick's other half The Director posted the following on Facebook: "If I ever meet a Spanish Air traffic controller I won't be held responsible for my actions."

I wonder how many people in Spain are thinking the exact same thing?


  1. Isn't Spain sort of closed until January 7th?

  2. Hi Rosie, welcome to my blog! And thanks for commenting. It kind of does feel we're closed. But it shouldn't be like that. I need to catch a flight out on Dec 23 and I hope I don't have any problems. fingers crossed.

  3. Yea, that was a bit odd all that stuff with the Spanish Air Traffic guys. What were they thinking when half of the country is unemployed – or employed but in a low pay job.

  4. Hey Mr EW - yes, my thoughts exactly. Bunch of feckers! x