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9 Aug, 2012 08:17

Flying low: ‘Suicidal’ cuts strike Spanish aviation

The Spanish government’s sweeping economic cuts are having serious knock-on effects across the country. The aviation industry is the latest to feel the pinch, with Spanish airlines cutting corners that could impact on passenger safety.

The financial crisis has seen Spanish consumers turn their backs on the country’s airlines, opting for budget options, such as EasyJet and Ryanair. Low-cost airlines now account for 57 per cent of the air traffic in Spain, according to the Spanish Institute of Tourism Studies. However, in the struggle to compete, some budget airlines have been forced to slash expenses that could impact on passenger safety.“If we go over the limits here, then the problem of stressed and fatigued personnel arises. For example, the law says there must be at least 45-minute breaks between flights but, in reality, it’s barely 20 minutes. Security is being damaged and we are allowing it,” Francisco Pinies from the Spanish Pilots’ Labor Union told RT.Antonio Lora Mateo from the Aircraft Maintenance Workers’ Union told RT that a 20-minute gap between flights was simply not enough to conduct all the necessary safety checks.“At times pilots are forced to take off without any security checks,” he said to RT.The growth of the budget airline phenomenon has forced many mainstream airlines into bankruptcy, as they are unable to break even during the spiraling crisis.Spain’s principal airline Iberia reported a loss of almost 300 million euro during the first half of 2012 and as a result is planning to cut back on wages and staff numbers.

Financial suicide

The Spanish parliament has approved an austerity package aimed at cutting 65 billion euro of state budgets by 2015.The Spanish Workers’ Union called on Spain’s King Juan Carlos I to appeal for a referendum on the austerity cut that they have branded as “suicidal.”“The policy of severe cuts in the public sector and calls for structural reforms which aim to reduce Spanish deficit are suicide,” said Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, the secretary general of the workers’ commission on Wednesday.Critics of Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy have said the cuts will be counterproductive for the Spanish economy. They claim it will cripple financial growth and job creation, opening the door to a “growing social-democratic crisis.”