Flight Problems Improve at Brazilian Airports

Brazilian airports began returning to normal Sunday after a strike by air traffic controllers stranded several thousand passengers over the weekend.

Check-in lines remained unusually long, but there were fewer cancellations and the number of flights delayed for more than an hour decreased considerably, according to a statement by Brazil's airport authority, or Infraero.

Controllers protesting against working conditions went on strike Friday night, prompting the suspension of takeoffs in all 67 commercial airports and causing a repeat of the air travel chaos that has plagued Latin America's largest nation for months.

The strike ended Saturday morning after the government agreed to the controllers' demands. The government will give controllers a bonus, review the promotions system, change the military status of at least some controllers to civilian and cancel all transfers made over the past six months.

Nearly 20,000 passengers were affected on Friday and Saturday, according to estimates from the Brazilian Civil Aviation Authority. Some of them were forced to spend the night in airport lobbies.

Airlines estimated it would take days for service to completely return to normal.

Controllers were protesting a decision by the Air Force command, which oversees Brazil's air traffic controllers, to transfer top workers to other cities. They saw the transfers as retaliation against strikers for slowdowns that they staged periodically over the past six months.

Brazil's travel headaches began last year when Brazil's one-time flagship airline Varig nearly disintegrated under crushing debt, causing mass cancellations in Brazil and abroad.

In March, hundreds of flights from major airports were delayed after a failure in air traffic control in Brazil's heavily populated southern and central areas.

The slowdowns by controllers protesting working conditions followed the Sept. 29 crash between a Gol airlines Boeing 737 and a Embraer Legacy executive jet that killed 154 people, the deadliest air accident in Brazil's history.


Associated Press Writer Peter Muello in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

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