Tirana airport partially reopens despite air traffic control strike

TIRANA, April 8 (Reuters) - Albania’s sole airport, in the capital, Tirana, reopened for essential and emergency flights on Thursday after a strike by air traffic controllers, with commercial flights expected to resume on Friday, a government official said.

About 70 air traffic controllers went on strike on Wednesday after their monthly wages were halved to around $2,490 due to a 57% reduction in air traffic caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the strike, the government took over the control tower. A Reuters reporter saw armoured vehicles and police there.

Infrastructure Minister Belinda Balluku announced a resumption of emergency flights for Thursday, and commercial flights for Friday morning.

“As a result of this illegal strike, the (coronavirus) vaccines that were supposed to arrive yesterday will land today,” she told a news conference.

The airport’s website said 19 flights scheduled for Friday had been cancelled. (Reporting by Florion Goga in Tirana and Fatos Bytyci in Pristina; Editing by Aleksandar Vasovic and Kevin Liffey)