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Air strike puts Spanish fixtures in doubt

Source: AFP - Sat 4th Dec 2010

A wildcat strike by air traffic controllers which has produced Spain's first state of alert since the return to democracy on the 1975 death of Franco has thrown several of the country's football fixtures into doubt.

With almost all airports affected by the controllers' walkout there were fears that several matches would not go ahead with leaders Barcelona still stuck on the east coast but due to face Osasuna across towards the northwest on Saturday evening.

A Barcelona statement read the club was "waiting on new information." Barcelona added that "the 19 players and the technical staff are still in the dressing rooms at the Nou Camp waiting for news of the situation at El Prat airport," from where they were due to fly out for the game.

Valencia were meanwhile due to face Real Madrid in the capital Saturday evening but they too faced being held up and so travelled late Friday by bus.

Real's city rivals Atletico Madrid had been due to make essentially the same journey in reverse, going out to face Levante, but they likewise elected to head over by bus on Friday and avoid the fate of thousands of people forced to sleep in airport lounges.

The strike has caused chaos with thousands of flights cancelled at a time when many Spaniards are looking to take a mini-winter break as Monday and Wednesday are public holidays. Many also take Tuesday off and take five days.

Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero elected to place air traffic control under the control of the country's military amid a row over work hours.

Controllers are also unhappy at government plans to trim ballooning public debt by part privatising privatising airport operator AENA.

The strike has caused the gravest crisis in Spain's skies since Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano erupted in April, forcing the world's biggest shutdown since World War II with 100,000 flight cancellations in two months.

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