Brussels Airport leads injunction against air traffic control provider

Brussels Airport Company and Brussels Airlines have launched interim injunction proceedings that apply for continuity of service delivery by Belgian air navigation services provider (ANSP) skeyes.

Airport operator Brussels Airport Company and home carrier Brussels Airlines have jointly instigated interim injunction proceedings before the president of the Brussels Business Court, looking for assured continuity of service by the ANSP.

Airline TUI fly has also joined the interim injunction proceedings.

Brussels Airport Company said that the gateway faces “serious economic loss and reputational damage as a result of the persistent and unannounced disruptions of service delivery at skeyes”.

It stated: “In these joint proceedings, the airport operator and the airlines are petitioning for assurances to be provided by skeyes as to the continuity of air traffic in Belgium to stop the passengers from being made the victims of the industrial actions at the air navigation services provider.”

The airport operator continued: “Since the middle of February, skeyes has ceased to fulfil its public service obligation to ensure air traffic control services on a continuous basis.

“Over the past three months, Belgian airspace has been wholly or partially closed at least one in every three days.

“In addition, the airport partners are systematically notified late of the decisions to close the airspace, which makes it impossible for them to put in place precautionary measures to offer passengers a suitable alternative.

“This unreliable service delivery by skeyes is having a major financial impact on the airport and also demands great flexibility from our passengers as well as all airport employees.

“Brussels Airport Company, Brussels Airlines and TUI fly are petitioning for uninterrupted service delivery by skeyes, on pain of penalty payments,” it confirmed.

The proceedings before the president of the Brussels Business Court were initiated last week (on May 16). Brussels Airport Company expects the Court to offer a ruling “shortly”.

skeyes air traffic controllers manage over 3,000 aircraft every day, which amounts to over a million flight movements per year.

Over the course of last year, skeyes guided 1,101,145 aircraft through Belgian airspace and at Belgian airports. It managed more than 600,000 overflights in the airspace above Belgium and part of Luxembourg up to an altitude of 7,500m (the upper airspace of the Benelux countries and northwest Germany is managed jointly through the EUROCONTROL centre in Maastricht).

Altogether, last year more than 34 million passengers and around 1.6 million tons of cargo were handled by skeyes, the ANSP said: record numbers.

However, this year has been marked by employees’ industrial action. skeyes’ employees do not have to declare their intention in advance as to whether they will work or not during trade union action, something that skeyes says makes forward planning extremely difficult.

If the ANSP cannot guarantee adequate staffing levels at any given moment, for obvious safety reasons it cannot accept air traffic during those times.

With many of the airspace closures coming in the hours of darkness, cargo traffic has been particularly affected. Freight gateway Liege Airport as well as Brussels Airport has thus been impacted, and has complained as a result.

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