Brazil's Air Traffic Manager Blames Controllers for Crisis

June 13, 2007

The president of government-owned Brazilian Airport Infra-structure Company (Infraero) on Tuesday blamed air traffic controllers for the crisis that has brought chaos to Brazil's airports since 2006.

In his testimony at the congressional committee created to investigate the crisis, Brigadier General Jose Carlos Pereira criticized the means used by the controllers to fight for better salaries and working conditions, and even accused them of "sabotage."

According to Pereira, the operators made use of strikes and slowdowns,, which caused flights to be systematically cancelled or delayed in airports all over Brazil, in order to convince the public and the government of the need for changes in the air traffic system.

However, Pereira admitted that their salaries are low, and that the current government resources available to Infraero are not enough to fulfill the annual increase in the volume of passengers (15 percent) and in air shipping (6 percent).

He added that the debts left by local airlines that went bankrupt, such as Vasp and Transbrasil, must be paid as soon as possible. The two companies owe Infraero 1.1 billion reals (about 570 million U.S. dollars).

Infraero's former President Eduardo Pettengill also testified to the committee at the Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday. He stressed he favored the punishment of the operators who participated in the movement, but denied that a "blackout" took place in the air traffic control system.

He said what happened was a coincidence of three factors: the strikes carried out by the controllers; bankrupt airline companies leaving passengers unattended; and the plane disaster involving a Boeing and a private jet in September, 2006, which killed 154 people.

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