Held to ran­som

Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - About Town -

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.


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