Albania’s flights resume after 2-day airport closure

<p>TIRANA, Albania &mdash; Commercial flights resumed at Albania’s Tirana International Airport on Friday after they were blocked for two days by an air traffic controllers’ strike.</p>
<p>The first commercial flight with passengers left the airport for Italy on Friday at 9:05 a.m. (0705 GMT). </p>
<p>Only “essential” flights took place the previous day. Those included a plane bringing a batch of virus vaccines.</p>
<p>The government has hired Turkish and Greek controllers to replace the local ones. The controllers, who are seeking a pay rise, have avoided calling their action a strike, as that is not allowed under Albanian law, instead declaring a temporary inability to work due to stress.</p>
<p>Prime Minister Edi Rama said two groups of controllers from Turkey and Greece would “work together to continue the operation.” Many Albanian controllers have agreed to resume work, he added.</p>
<p>The government considered the controllers’ walkout illegal.</p>
<p>Three controllers have been detained and are being probed on suspicion of abuse of post. Twenty-seven others were also questioned.</p>
<p>The controllers’ union says their pay has been cut by 62% over the past year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the same period, Albania’s air traffic has fallen by 57%, according Infrastructure Minister Belinda Balluku.</p>
<p>The minister said air traffic controllers are paid $2,490 a month — five times the country’s average salary of about $500.</p>
<p>The incident has also turned into a political issue as there is a parliamentary election in the country on April 25.</p>
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