Olympic Airways staff block airport runway in protest at sell-off

thens – Hundreds of workers with Greek state carrier Olympic Airlines blocked the main runway at Athens International Airport Tuesday over plans to privatise the airline.

The demonstrators, including pilots, air stewards and technicians, prevented planes from taking off and landing on the runway.

Airport officials said the protest forced air traffic controllers to divert planes to a second runway. The demonstration did not affect any flights, they added.

Tuesday’s airport protest was the second in one week.

The European Commission last week approved a government plan to privatise the airline while ordering the current company to pay back more than 1 billion dollars in illegal state aid.

The decision was expected to reverberate in other European countries that are struggling to save their flagship carriers at a time of high oil prices and slowing economic growth.

The more than 8,000 employees at Olympic Airways oppose the government’s plan to privatise the airline, despite promises of early retirement payoffs and transfers to other public sector jobs.

The fate of Olympic Airlines follows that of other European carriers such as Belgium’s Sabena, which was relaunched as Brussels Airlines and is to be taken over by Germany’s Lufthansa.

It could also set an example for Alitalia, which is estimated to be losing around 2 million euros (2.9 million dollars) a day.

Trade unions representing some of Alitalia’s cabin crew have gone on strike in Italy over a government-backed rescue plan for the state airline. The plan involves the airline’s takeover by a group of Italian investors, CAI, and cuts of at least 3,000 jobs.

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