We felt we had dodged a bullet when we missed the 48-hour strike on July 17 by airport workers in Portugal. The work stoppage caused the cancellation of some 600 flights in two days and stranded passengers who waited in long lines, frantically trying to reschedule their travel.
Then we heard from friends who flew yesterday from DC to Lisbon. They endured a 3 ½ hour wait in lines to clear the airport.
WTF! A new strike – and reports say it’s on till the end of August.
The July strike was staged by the Union of Airport Handling Technicians (STHA) for salary conditions and back wages. This one is by Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) workers, not for wages, but to oppose government plans to assign them to different departments. They’re calling it a partial strike because customs officials will stop working for only two hours every day. But the result is the same and coincides with the peak season for Portugal’s recovering tourism industry.
We love Europe, but we don’t love the many strikes that shut countries down. Regardless of whether you sympathize with the strikers’ concerns and demands, it’s not only damned inconvenient but dangerous to herd hundreds of exhausted people into a crowded space during a pandemic.
Maybe if the strikers sat on the cold hard floor with the families and infirm for four hours they might reconsider. In this case, we think the unions are hurting their cause and their country’s economy. We expect lots of travelers will have second thoughts about visiting Portugal when they see the pictures of packed arrival halls.
With the exception of cruising, getting to a distant destination is not fun. It’s something we have to endure. We will carry on, even though it adds hours to an already grueling 6,000-mile trip that begins at 4:30 in the morning. Will this be the only bump in the road on our three-month journey? Probably not, but that makes it an adventure, and sometimes adventure is a total pain in the ass.