Albania resumes flights after air traffic controllers walk-out

Tirana airport albania
"Mother Teresa" International Airport in Tirana, Albania

Tirana, Albania | 10 April 2021 (Tirana Echo) – Albania has reopened its airspace with flights resuming after a two day walk-out by its air traffic controllers in Tirana’s international airport.

Following the unprecedented action, the government called in several Turkish and Greek air traffic controllers to fill in for their Albanian counterparts for a period of 48 hours enabling essential flights to land in Tirana.

Today, the majority of Albanian controllers have returned to work and Tirana’s Airport has resumed its normal activity.

Air traffic controllers walked out on Thursday following months of disagreements with the government over what they call ‘unfair’ pay cuts due to lack of air traffic. Instead of going on strike, the air traffic controllers claimed ‘temporary inability due to stress at work’.

However, the Albanian government said the walk-out was illegal and endangering the country’s national security, ahead of a major NATO exercise which will see thousands of international soldiers coming into Albania this month.

Two controllers have been arrested and another one is under house arrest following investigations by prosecutors over deliberate abuse of their positions.

While the entire fleet of 60 air traffic controllers of Albania proclaimed their collective incapacity to exercise their duty by signing a document which grants them the right to stay off work, Albanian Infrastructure Minister Belinda Balluku labelled it a strike and a ‘coup d’état’ inspired by the country’s President Ilir Meta and former PM Sali Berisha.

The airport incident was highly politicized given that Albania is heading to general parliamentary elections on April 25th, with ruling socialist government of PM Edi Rama seeking a third term in power.

Following the resumption of flights, Minister Balluku said this extraordinary and grave situation “has made us understand this was well organised plan to block flights until election day, however, all necessary measures have been taken and a thorough verification of facts will be carried out.” 

Albania is a NATO member country and hopes to start official talks for EU membership later this year. 


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