DAKAR — A 48-hour strike by air traffic controllers in West and Central Africa has been suspended, their union said Saturday.
The strike, which started Friday, has disrupted flights across the region and left hundreds of passengers stranded at airports Saturday.
The Union of Air Traffic Controllers’ Unions (USYCAA), which called the wildcat strike, said in a statement it decided to suspend its strike notice for 10 days immediately so as to allow for negotiations.
“Air traffic services will be provided in all air spaces and airports managed by ASECNA from today Saturday, September 24, 2022 at 1200 GMT,” the statement said.
The union said more than 700 air traffic controllers joined the strike to demand better working conditions and pay.
The controllers work under the Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) an 18-member state agency that manages air traffic over an area covering 16 million square km of airspace.
Across the region, airport operations ground to a near halt as authorities tried to keep control towers operational for some flights.
Hundreds of passengers were stranded at Douala International Airport in Cameroon Saturday morning, national television CRTV reported. National carrier Camair-Co said Friday it had canceled all its flights because of the strike.
Nsoh Brinston, a stranded passenger who was to fly to Kigali, Rwanda, said his flight has canceled.
“I will have to spend more than I intended due to the canceled flight. I will have to do another COVID test, which costs 30,000 CFA francs ($45),” he said.
He would also have to find a place to spend the night.
West, central Africa affected
In Senegal, the airport departure board showed cancellations for flights operated by Brussels Airlines, Kenyan Airways and Emirates as passengers gathered to check if their flight was still on schedule.
A group of students from Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, who were due to fly back home from Dakar said they were stuck at the airport because they could not afford the fare to the city, around 50 km from the airport.
“We were supposed to board at 0900 GMT but we’re still here,” one of the students said, requesting to remain anonymous. “We have been told the situation could be resolved by tomorrow.”
“I was supposed to leave at 1400 GMT. The flight was announced as scheduled but we have just been told that it has been canceled,” said Maxine Compaore, who was supposed to fly to Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
In Ivory Coast, eight flights scheduled to leave the commercial hub of Abidjan Saturday were canceled.
Source: Voice of America