Flights Grounded As Strike Hits Belgium

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Published: January 31, 2012

Belgium’s first general strike in almost two decades brought the country to a partial halt on Monday in an anti-austerity protest aimed at the government and EU leaders meeting in Brussels.

Charleroi Airport, a hub for Ryanair and other low-cost carriers, was forced to cancel all flights due to union plans to block the access road.

However, at Brussels Airport most flights were operating. India’s Jet Airways, which uses Brussels as its European hub, rerouted flights via Amsterdam. United cancelled its services to and from the United States.

“Some airlines cancelled services ahead of time… but overall I think only about 10 percent of flights will be hit,” an airport spokesman said.

High-speed international trains, such as the Eurostar from London and Thalys from Paris, were not running into or out of the country as of late on Sunday.

“We are a bit put out, but we recognise the right of people to strike,” said Luiz Lopez, a university professor from Brazil seeking to travel to London.

The walkout coincides with the 17th EU summit in two years as the bloc battles to resolve its sovereign debt problems. The EU leaders will sign off on a permanent rescue fund for the eurozone and are expected to agree on a balanced budget rule in national legislation.

Unions have called the general strike, Belgium’s first since 1993, over government plans to raise the effective retirement age along with other measures designed to save EUR€11.3 billion (USD$ 14.8 billion).

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