Easter flight misery looks like hitting early this year with the statement by ANA airports authority this morning that its Lisbon and Faro complexes have run out of fuel.
On just day two of the strike by truck drivers tasked with transporting ‘dangerous materials’, the country’s principal air transportation networks appear to be close to becoming grounded, while traffic jams winding round fuel stations are causing snarl-ups everywhere.
For now, there is no news on the situation at Porto’s Sá Carneiro airport or at the airports of Madeira and the Azores.
Said the statement from ANA sent out to news agencies mid-morning: “ANA Airports of Portugal informs that the emergency reserves at Faro airport have been affected to the degree that fuel supplies have been suspended since last (Monday) night.
“At Humberto Delgado airport (Lisbon) we’re expecting the same interruption to fuel supplies from midday today”.
Says the company operating the country’s airports “minimum services have not been assured” thus “service disruptions at operational level” will almost certainly follow.
The way ahead will be for a ‘civil requisition’ approved by the government early this morning to kick in, but all this will take time.
ANA guarantees to “keep up with the situation” but advises passengers with flights scheduled in Lisbon and Faro “to check with their carriers”.
A ‘panic at the pumps’ was being forecast yesterday by striking truck drivers (click here), but very little notice appears to have been taken until the reality of the transportation blockade began to bite early this morning.
Said union leaders at midday, over 50% of regular service stations are being affected by the lack of fuel coming through and the overall effects of this strike are already “gigantic”.
Hours later queues of vehicles desperate to fill tanks at filling stations had become commonplace.
Algarve news websites are describing “an Algarve without fuel”, thus the situation is galloping forwards while negotiations with the striking drivers’ union have not yet begun.
Television reports coming out of Faro suggested there is in fact a huge consignment of fuel “close by” but the problem is that there is no-one available to deliver it.
Said SIC television news at lunchtime, it could take until Friday or Saturday before Faro’s reserves are replenished, and the knock-on effect will take its toll on supplies of gas as well.
Talking to reporters around the same time, economy minister Siza Vieira admitted gas supplies in Olhão and Sines are already running critically low, while Pedro Pardal, representing the striking truckers union, warned that things will only get worse.
“Over the next 48 hours we will not be delivering fuel anywhere, not to fuel stations, airports or anywhere else”, he said.
“Remember that Friday is a Bank Holiday and that Saturday and Sunday are Easter. We predict a very complicated situation for our country”.
SNMMP – the initials for the national syndicate of drivers of dangerous materials – has said it would welcome sitting down to discuss its demands with the government. Indeed representatives say the strike won’t be called off until this happens.
Meantime, a convoy of fuel tankers is said to be ‘preparing to head for the capital’ to supply Lisbon airport.
Flight cancellations have already begun, though airlines have assembled contingency plans (namely to refuel in Spain) so the situation is looking slightly less complicated.
Dinheiro Vivo writes that a source for the fuel company leading the tankers bound for Lisbon has demanded “guarantees of safety”. These are to be assured by police.
President Marcelo has added his call for dialogue between the government and the SNMMP, reminding everyone that we are fast approaching a weekend where traditionally Portuguese families like to spend time with each other – something that could be unpleasantly affected by a continuing lack of fuel.