Tourists and residents of the island were left with their suitcases in hand
Visitors and residents of Ikaria were left with their suitcases in hand today as the island’s airport was closed unexpectedly in the midst of the tourist season and a pandemic due to the illness of the only telecommunications officer of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), without whose presence no take-offs and landings can be carried out.
As a result, all three flights scheduled for today to and from the island (two by Aegean and one by Sky Express) have been cancelled.
Apart from the tourists who are suffering great inconvenience, passengers who are facing serious health problems and had planned to leave today, even for highly urgent matters such as scheduled hospitalizations, surgeries, blood transfusions, etc., remain stranded on the island.
According to the CAA’s update, however, today’s cancelled flights will be performed as additional flights tomorrow Thursday following the transfer of an electronic – telecommunications specialist employee to the island from Samos airport.
It should be noted, however, that as the mayor of Ikaria, Nikolaos Kalambogias, points out in a letter to Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis and the CAA administration, this is not the first time this has happened, as since 2011 only one authorized AFIS employee has been serving at the control tower of Ikaria Airport, who serves the daily passenger traffic seven days a week, the 24-hour emergency medical services, the emergency services (military, police, etc.), the daily extensions of the Airport’s working hours due to delays in the summer season and any other need.
“In a remote island like ours whose tourist traffic is based on air connections, insufficient staffing is a threat and degradation of our tourist product and consequently a degradation and discrediting of the country’s tourist product”, the mayor notes.
He points out the need for immediate staffing of the Airport of Ikaria with a second permanent employee “and not fragmentary solutions that not only do not solve the problem but exacerbate it”, adding that “the physical fatigue of the only AFIS (Airport Control Tower) employee may be dangerous for the safety of flights”.
Referring to the incident, the CAA announced a short while ago that tomorrow Thursday 5/8, from 07:30 in the morning, flights – scheduled and emergency flights that were postponed today – will start in order to normalize traffic to and from the airport of Ikaria, after the sudden incident of illness of the telecommunications employee serving at the airport of the island. He added that as of Wednesday today, he has already arranged for the replacement of the sick employee with another competent official, who has already been posted from Samos to Ikaria.
At the same time through the airport manager of Ikaria, “informed immediately and specifically from the early morning of Wednesday, August 4, 2021 the airlines and ground handling companies operating at the airport of the island for the illness of the employee that resulted in the cancellation of flights, in order to inform all passengers of the change in the date of their flight and avoid suffering.”
Similar situation at other small airports
According to information from “ethnos.gr” the shortages in human resources are not limited to the airport of Ikaria where a telecommunications officer is serving. Without any employee of this specialty operate the airports of Leros, Kastelorizo, Kythera, Syros and Astypalaia with the needs to be covered by two-month rotation of workers from other airports.
The airports of Milos, Ikaria, Naxos and Kastoria have one telecommunications operator. Specifically, Naxos airport has two employees, but only one of whom is qualified, while for the airport of Kasos a replacement must be found immediately as there are currently two telecommunications employees, but one of whom is soon to retire and the second has already requested a transfer, which has already been approved despite the shortages in this particular specialty.
According to the Ministry of Transport, however, the recruitment process in the CAA is being launched through the APSP in order to strengthen the specialties that have staff shortages and are critical for traffic. This was announced after the meeting between the Secretary General of Transport, Yannis Xifaras and the Administrator of the CAA, Georgios Dritsacos, with a delegation of the Board of the Air Traffic Controllers Association. “In fact, the Ministry is not only available to proceed with recruitment, but is initiating procedures for the creation of a mechanism for the replacement of staff, in order to avoid in the future the possibility of understaffing of the Service,” said a statement from the Ministry, which links the decision to the current incident in Ikaria, stressing that “the above is important, especially after the current incident at the airport of Ikaria and the sudden illness of a telecommunications employee serving on the island.”