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Thousands stranded over Alitalia strike

Thousands of travelers were left stranded Tuesday because of a strike by Italian air traffic controllers and Alitalia flight attendants that forced the cancellation of hundreds of domestic and international flights.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Thousands of travelers were left stranded Tuesday because of a strike by Italian air traffic controllers and Alitalia flight attendants that forced the cancellation of hundreds of domestic and international flights.

Among the stranded were an estimated 7,000 AC Milan fans whose flights to Athens for Wednesday’s Champions League final against Liverpool were scrapped.

The Italian civil aviation authority said it had supplied a list of the affected Athens-bound flights to the air traffic controllers’ agency, saying they had to depart to “prevent possible public order problems.”

Italy’s national carrier Alitalia alone canceled 394 flights Tuesday because of the 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. strike.

Alitalia flight attendant unions are trying to keep up the pressure on the struggling national carrier over contract negotiations. Other international carriers also canceled flights because of the walkout by air traffic controllers.

German airline Lufthansa AG said it had canceled all flights into and out of Italy. A total of 80 flights and 5,000 passengers were affected, the airline said, adding that it would increase its capacity after the strike ended.

Russia’s Aeroflot also said it had canceled flights to Rome and Milan, the Interfax news agency reported.

Air travel in Italy has been disrupted for a week because of wildcat walkouts by Alitalia SpA flight crews over demands that the company adhere to rules regulating the number of crew members and hours of rest between flights.

Late Monday, Alitalia executives met with officials from the civil aviation authority to discuss the walkouts. A statement from the aviation authority said the spontaneous strikes did not violate flight safety rules. About 4 percent of the 800 flights in the past few days were affected, the statement said.

Strikes, competition from low-cost competitors and high fuel costs have plagued Alitalia. The Italian government, which holds a 49.9-percent stake in the company, is trying to sell a controlling share. On Tuesday, it said that it was prepared to sell its entire stake if one of the three bidders in the race to buy the carrier requests it. Binding offers must be presented July 2.

In separate bad news for travelers in Italy, taxi drivers announced they would go on strike May 31 for the second time in a month to protest government efforts to increase the number of cab licenses.