Held to ransom
By Irena Bodnarec On Tuesday, the French air traffic controllers went on strike – yet again, causing untold misery to hundreds of thousands of travellers. The main air traffic controllers’ unions are protesting against labour reform policies of President Emmanuel Macron, in the main over staffing and pay. There is a growing band of airlines such as Ryanair, Easyjet and KLM that are trying to put pressure on the EU to intervene. Strange how they can stick their oar in on most matters but something that affects so many – silence.
I counted that Ryanair cancelled 444 flights from a list that they published – fights that predominantly flew over French airspace. Alicante was affected with many UK flights cancelled – coming out but also returning holidaymakers back. The arrivals board made sad viewing throughout the day and even at midnight; many flights were still showing delayed arrival times.
I am sure that many had work to go back to and wonder how sympathetic their bosses were. Obviously, it is out of their hands but they certainly wouldn’t get paid. Also, if alternative flights couldn’t be found for the following day, which is highly probable, it necessitated staying longer here.
This all sounds great – an extra few days in the sun, drinking, partying etc. but it also means additional accommodation. Perhaps the hotel or apartment where you had been staying was booked with new guests – what then? You would have to start looking for alternatives, which mark my words, I guess would not be recoverable from your travel insurance or the airlines as it was a strike that caused the cancellation.
I read that one group decided to get the coach back, having run out of money to pay for more nights in a hotel – a journey I wouldn’t fancy for one minute. I have driven back to the UK a couple of times over the years, but never again. I know many do, making the journey through Spain and France part of the holiday but I would far sooner jump on a plane and in just over two hours, arrive in London. The thought of doing that journey by coach fills me with total horror, especially knowing how both the Spanish and French drive!
But with the referendum results declared, one has to wonder firstly how safe it will be to drive through Cataluña at the moment. Carles Puigdemont – Cataluña’s leader signed a declaration of independence on Tuesday evening, but immediately suspended it to undertake talks with Madrid.
The Spanish Prime Minister has made it abundantly clear that there is absolutely no bargaining or discussion on the matter. It is technically feasible that Mr Puigdemont could be arrested on allegations of rebellion, which can carry a maximum jail sentence of 25 years!
More than 20 large international companies have already announced that they will be moving from Cataluña to other parts of Spain, mainly Madrid over fears that if independence were declared it would impact on their businesses. The two main Catalan banks – Caixabank and Banco Sabadell have already moved their headquarters out of the region, CaixaBank to Valencia and Sabadell to Alicante.
So how will the region be able to sustain itself – they certainly would not be part of the European Union. Maybe they could band together with the UK and form a club. Of the 5.3 million voters eligible to vote in that referendum, only 43 per cent actually took part – most opponents boycotted the poll. Will this action potentially see unrest and fuel separatist actions in other parts of Europe?
Many tourists are already uneasy about visiting and heading for alternative city breaks. Anti-tourist sentiment is rife in Barcelona, with graffiti popping up around the city with “Tourists go home” and some furious Barcelona residents storming the beaches carrying placards with “We don’t want tourists – this is not a beach resort”.
Locals are furious that they are being forced out of the housing market as people are buying properties to rent out to holidaymakers. But then isn’t that true of every major city around the world. Being a Londoner I definitely know it is true – I could never afford to live back in Holland Park now. Heaven knows when my children will ever be able to afford to get on the housing ladder – it was so much easier in my day but now seemingly impossible.