Flights into and out of West and Central Africa were grounded on Friday due to an air traffic control strike, creating confusion for travelers heading to Europe, the US, and other parts of the continent.
In defiance of court orders and government restrictions, employees at the Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), which oversees air traffic control in 18 countries, went on strike on Friday over issues with working hours and compensation.
Flights to and from Europe and the United States were suspended on Friday night, a busy travel day, according to Reuter’s reporters at Senegal’s Blaise Diagne International Airport and in the US.
Airlines and passengers reported that flights within Africa were also disrupted.
Customers were advised by ASECNA to monitor airline websites for updates.
“In spite of the prohibition of the strike by all the courts … the Union of Air Traffic Controllers’ Unions (USYCAA) has launched a wildcat strike,” ASECNA said on Friday.
“We have already exhausted both administrative and institutional remedies in the management of this crisis, but we have in front of us trade unionists who are stubborn to do whatever they want,” ASECNA’s head of human resources, Ceubah Guelpina, told a press conference.
The USYCAA union declared in a statement that until their demands are met, its members would stop serving all but “critical” aircraft.
A spokesman of the striking Senegalese air traffic controllers, Paul Francois Gomis, claimed that several union members had been detained for taking part in the strike in Cameroon, the Congo, and Comoros.
Reuters correspondents said that as a result of the action, Air Senegal had grounded numerous aircraft. A comment from the airline could not be obtained right away.
According to travelers, flights to the United States, Portugal, and Turkey were affected.
According to ASECNA, a Senegalese court on Thursday postponed the demand for a strike by air traffic controllers in Senegal and the Ivory Coast.
In case the strike should continue, ASECNA said it has created a backup plan to enable airlines to use alternate routes when certain airports are disrupted by momentary staff shortages.