Portugal fuel strike hits air passengers and drivers as Easter travel rush begins

Simon Calder
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Portugal fuel strike hits air passengers and drivers as Easter travel rush begins

As the Easter travel rush gets under way, thousands of passengers planning to fly between Portugal and the UK face disruption because of a strike by fuel tanker drivers.

Members of the newly formed Sindicato Nacional de Motoristas de Matérias Perigosas (SNMMP, the National Union of Dangerous Goods Drivers) are taking action in a dispute about workers’ rights.

Demand for fuel is rising as Easter approaches, which is traditionally a time when lots of Portuguese are on the move, as well as holidaymakers from Britain and beyond converging on the country.

Lisbon and Faro airports, which between them handle nearly 100,000 passengers a day, are running very short of aviation fuel.

Airports tend to be supplied with fuel on a “just-in-time” basis so reserves are minimal.

While short-haul airlines such as British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair can bring in extra fuel in the tanks, on longer routes such as Faro to Liverpool (over 1,150 miles) they may need to top up on the way back.

Four easyJet flights between the UK and Portugal will be required to make fuel stops en route: a round-trip from Bristol to Faro, and the inbound flights from Faro to Gatwick and Liverpool.

On Tuesday night, northbound easyJet flights from the Algarve refuelled at Porto and Santiago in Spain. One departure from Lisbon to Geneva was delayed overnight.

The airline said: “Due to strike action in Portugal affecting fuel availability easyJet, like all airlines, is experiencing some disruption to its flying programme today.

“We are doing everything possible to minimise the disruption for our customers and whilst this is outside of our control, we would like to apologise to customers for any inconvenience experienced as a result of the strike action.”

The Foreign Office is warning: “If you’re travelling from Lisbon or Faro airport over the coming days, check with your airline for possible delays.

“Travel within Portugal may also be affected by the strike.”

There are reports that many petrol stations around Portugal are running out of fuel.

Portugal’s government is seeking to enforce minimum service levels to maintain supplies for them, but for holidaymakers who are renting cars it’s a serious problem – with some drivers on the Algarve coast in the south driving across to Spain to fill up.

For Liverpool fans in Porto for Wednesday night’s Champion’s League quarter-final second leg, the most significant impact will be on the roads; Porto airport appears to have sufficient reserves of fuel to get supporters home.

The islands of Madeira, Porto Santo and the Azores appear to be unaffected.

Across in Spain, train drivers working for the national operator, Renfe, are taking industrial action, leading to the cancellation of some high-speed Ave trains.

Airport security workers at Madrid Barajas Airport began striking on 12 April, though disruption has been limited. Airport workers throughout Spain will strike on Easter Sunday and Wednesday 24 April.

The Foreign Office warns: “If you’re travelling during these times, you should prepare for the possibility of delays, allow additional time, and keep up to date with your airline on the status of your flight.“