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On Wednesday, both the airline industry and passengers preparing to travel in May woke up to the news of a new decree enacted overnight by the Council of Ministers. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki issued a list of only 32 "priority destinations" from Okęcie and Modlin- Warsaw’s two international airports that will suffer the most as a result of the months-long protest of air traffic controllers. The first group of protesters resigned in early April, which has led to considerable delays and cancelations. Another group of nearly 140 people announced their intention to follow suit and leave the airport control towers in the next few days. Negotiations on job security and pay between the Ministry of Infrastructure and labor unions have so far been unsuccessful.

Yesterday (April 26), another long round of talks between representatives of the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency (PANSA) and the flight controllers’ union representing the tower at Chopin Airport ended up in a deadlock. The major points of contention remain pay and work conditions.

Massive flight cancellations expected in May

Regional airports in the south and west of Poland are to be overseen by their own controllers or staff from neighboring countries, such as the Czech Republic and Germany. Following the Prime Minister’s decision, until the end of May, the only connections that will remain unchanged will be those between Warsaw and selected European capitals, as well as New York, Chicago, Toronto, Tel Aviv, Seoul, Dubai, Tbilisi, and domestic connections to Rzeszów and Szczecin. Okęcie and Modlin airports will operate only between 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Lotnisko w Modlinie. Samolot linii Ryanair czeka na pasażerów na płycie obok drogi kołowania, 9 września 2021r.Lotnisko w Modlinie. Samolot linii Ryanair czeka na pasażerów na płycie obok drogi kołowania, 9 września 2021r. Fot. Kuba Atys / Agencja Wyborcza.pl

Yesterday, Poland’s Civil Aviation Authority assigned the prioritized routes to specific carriers. The state-owned LOT will be in charge of most of them. A flight to each of the listed destinations will depart once a day. There are 24 take-offs and landings scheduled per hour. The CAA said that once all the "priority routes" have been served, airlines will be left with 116 additional flight operations divided between Okęcie (104) and Modlin (12).

Ryanair files a complaint with the European Commission against Poland

- It will all be very makeshift. Once the air traffic controllers resign and others go on sick leave, even the "priority directions" will be difficult to manage. There may not be enough time for those additional take-offs and landings - says Tomasz Stańczak, CEO of the airport company in Modlin. He adds that the airport seriously considered closing the terminal just a few days ago. Ultimately, only two Ryanair routes will remain - London Stansted and Dublin.

Yesterday, the Irish carrier filed a complaint with the European Commission. - The decree of Prime Minister [Morawiecki] unlawfully discriminates against Ryanair, the largest airline in Poland. Should take effect, in May, over 300.000 of our passengers will be affected by the canceled flights and LOT will continue to operate half-empty regional jets on domestic routes. We call for the intervention of European Union Commissioners Adin Valean for Transport and Margrethe Vestager for Competition to ensure that the Polish Prime Minister respects the basic principles of EU law, and to prevent blatant discrimination against Ryanair and our customers- said Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's chief executive.

He added that the Polish government's decision will disrupt the travel plans of more than 11.000 Ryanair passengers every day.

Prezes linii lotniczych Ryanair Michael O'Leary podczas konferencji prasowej dot. lotniska w Modlinie, 26 września 2013Prezes linii lotniczych Ryanair Michael O'Leary podczas konferencji prasowej dot. lotniska w Modlinie, 26 września 2013 Fot. Jacek Marczewski / Agencja Wyborcza.pl

Passengers and tourists who made plans to depart from the Okęcie airport on charter flights have also found themselves in a difficult situation. Most of the chartered flights are operated by Enter Air. Flights to and from Chopin airport make up 70% of the carrier's traffic in Poland.

- If some flights will indeed have to be canceled, we will try to compensate, at least in part, all the passengers who have already paid for their tickets- Prime Minister Morawiecki said on Tuesday.

Further talks between unions representing air traffic controllers and the Polish government are expected to continue in the following days.  

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