18 December 2017

Senegal: Air Traffic Controllers on Strike Days After New Airport Opens

Air traffic controllers at Senegal's new international airport have gone on strike just days after the facility opened. Flights to and from Dakar's Blaise Diagne International Airport were canceled Friday after controllers announced they would strike for 24 hours.

The air traffic controllers said they were striking to protect travelers because they did not receive enough training before the new facility opened.

“There is new, latest-generation equipment that has been installed. We have not been trained on that equipment,” said Mame Alioune Sene, the president of the union representing the airport's air traffic controllers.

The union is also demanding increased stipends for employees to get to work because the new airport is 45 kilometers (28 miles) outside the city center. Dakar's previous international airport, Leopold Sedar Senghor, now a military airport, is in the city's suburbs.

The $680 million facility opened December 7 after more than 10 years of delays. The government said the airport would help make Senegal a hub for transportation and tourism in West Africa.

Airport officials said about 30 flights had been canceled because of the strike.

"With [air] traffic interrupted, it means some 30 flights won’t come here today. That’s around 5,000 passengers, so of course it's an important loss for the airport, but first and foremost it’s an incredible inconvenience for passengers and for the airlines," said Xavier Mary, head of LAS, the Turkish-Senegalese consortium that manages the airport.

Air traffic controllers said the strike could be extended if their terms were not met.

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