Cypriot Air Traffic Controllers Warn Staff Shortage Danger

FILE - An aircraft takes off from Larnaca airport past the control tower, right, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, at the southern coastal city of Larnaca, Cyprus. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

A lack of staff is making flying into and out of Cyprus hazardous, the country’s air traffic controllers, warning there could be a crash and tragic results unless they get more help from the government.

“We are struggling daily not to have an aircraft crash in the flight information region of Nicosia due to tragic staff shortages,” their unions announced. “We have reached a point where we can no longer bear the burden of responsibility,” they added, the Cyprus Mail said.

The unions said the number of arriving and departing flights is rising during a record run of tourism seasons that took the country out of an economic crisis and that there’s not enough controllers on watch, also blaming building infrastructure and inadequate technology.

The unions PASEEK and SEEKK said a state-owned air navigation company should be created without further delay and called on President Nicos Anastasiades to intervene and the Attorney-General to examine the case.

“Although Eurocontrol studies show that Cypriot air traffic controller productivity is among the highest in Europe, the cost of employment is one of the lowest,” the unions said, and that landing fees for airlines is the fourth lowest of 41 European countries.

“Millions of euros that could be invested every year in the Cypriot economy are lost and, among others, the many Turkish airlines that fly daily in the Nicosia flight region benefit from this,” they noted.

They said too few are handling 1,000 to 1,500 flights from a poorly-equipped facility and some have quit, unable to take the constant pressure and poor working conditions.
Transport Minister Vassiliki Anastasiadou in August acknowledged the problems with the existing offices and said the controllers would be moved to a new building.