International pilots have been advised to “exercise extreme caution” when flying over, to, or from Albania, due to fears that air traffic controllers aren’t competent.
The warning comes after the Albanian government arrested protesting air traffic controllers and shipped in others from Turkey and set them to work without giving them any additional training.
The International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Associations (Ifalpa) warned:
“There is an ongoing dispute between ATC and the authorities which has resulted in three controllers being detained. Although the airspace has been re-opened, the Albanian controllers still working are under extreme pressure for their future employment.
There are reports that controllers from other states have been brought in to replace the Albanian controllers, their status as to training and local ratings are unknown. Pilots are requested to exercise extreme caution while operating within this airspace.”
OpsGroup, an industry information service added:
“The action of the Albanian authorities should be seen for what it is, a terrible misjudgment creating a safety risk across Albanian airspace.”
Albanian air traffic controllers recently said they were unable to work due to stress caused by their wages being cut by almost half during the COVID-19 pandemic. Flights stopped for around 24 hours and police descended on the airport and in some cases, the homes of the workers, arresting them and detaining them in a police station. The government called it a “Coup d’etat” organized by President Ilir Meta while the workers claimed it was not political.
Organizers have been arrested and are in court, others are under home arrest. The law was then changed to facilitate bringing in workers from abroad with no additional training.
Under international air-safety rules, air traffic controllers reserve the right to declare themselves unfit for work, including for reasons of stress.