Six Scottish airports to close due to strike action

Six airports will be closed to all but emergency flights on Thursday as air traffic controllers strike over plans to introduce remote airport control towers.

Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) is planning to centralise operations in Inverness and introduce remote integrated air traffic control services for five airports: Inverness, Dundee, Stornoway, Kirkwall and Sumburgh.

The Prospect union said the walkout on July 29 will mark an escalation in the industrial action which has been going on since January.

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HIAL said that Benbecula, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Sumburgh airports will be closed to all but emergency flights from 12.01am on Thursday for 24 hours due to strike action.

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Inglis Lyon, HIAL’s managing director, said: “We apologise for the inconvenience this day of strike action will cause.

“The disruption will impact our passengers, airline partners and the communities we serve at a crucial time in the recovery from the effects the Covid pandemic.

“It is extremely disappointing that strike action is going ahead despite months of work with Prospect to agree a number of policies to support our colleagues’ transition to our Air Traffic Management programme.

Sumburgh Airport. Picture: TSPL

“We are still in talks with the union on a commuting policy and appeal to Prospect to conclude those discussions before considering any further escalation of industrial action.”

Prospect has previously said its members will take action because the plans will remove high value jobs from remote communities, which will have a strong impact on those economies, and result in redundancies as people are unwilling to relocate to Inverness from the communities they love and serve.

The industrial action has so far included staff working to rosters, a ban on overtime, refusing shift extensions – except for search and rescue, emergency and medical flights – and refusing to train new controllers.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The decision to modernise air traffic control will ensure that air services can continue in the future.

“The option chosen by HIAL in 2018 will improve resilience, safety and reliability of services. It remains the case that no alternative has been proposed that addresses the issues that the Air Traffic Management Strategy (ATMS) programme aims to resolve.

“HIAL continues to engage with its staff, unions, airline customers and other interested parties as the programme is implemented.”

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