Thousands of desperate travelers packed Barcelona airport on Saturday because of lingering chaos from a wildcat strike by ground crew employees that forced the cancellation of nearly 600 flights on one of the busiest days of the vacation season.
Spain's industry and development ministers condemned Friday's 11-hour walkout by 2,500 Iberia employees - 200 of them swarmed over runways, halting all air traffic for most of the day - and said legal action against unions behind the strike was pending.
The Spanish flagship carrier's airport employees in Barcelona were protesting the airline's loss of the license to operate handling operations at the airport, the second-busiest in Spain.
Unions and Iberia reached an agreement in principle Saturday under which ground crews for Iberia will continue to do the airline's handling work in Barcelona, union leader Manuel Garcia Biel said.
Iberia and the national airport authority AENA will study whether Iberia ground staff can also do keep doing this for Iberia subsidiary Air Nostrum and Clickair, a planned, new low-cost carrier in which Iberia has a stake, he said.
The government drew angry criticism for allowing the unannounced strike to go on as long as it did and not calling in police to clear the runways. The president of the Barcelona chamber of commerce, Miquel Valls, called the government irresponsible.
Iberia, which had canceled all its flights to and from Barcelona, said they resumed Saturday but were suffering unspecified delays. Other carriers were also operating again.
Television footage showed scenes of chaos. Terminals at the airport were jammed to capacity, with many travelers saying they were getting little to no information from airlines and had no idea when they would continue with their disrupted travel plans.
Carriers struggled to deal with travelers whose flights were canceled Friday and others arriving for flights scheduled for Saturday.
Thousands of people spent the night at the jam-packed airport. Red Cross crews handed out food and water. Frustrated travelers blocked roads leading into the airport Friday night.
Close to 100,000 passengers were affected by the airport disruption, Iberia said.
A trickle of flights resumed Friday night.
The Iberia employees were angry because the Spanish national airport authority, known as AENA, this week granted a new handling license at Barcelona's El Prat Airport to Spanish construction and services company Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas SA and to affiliates of Iberia's rivals Air Europa and Spanair, which is a unit of Scandinavian airline operator SAS AB.
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