Chaos returned to Brazil's airports Thursday, with passengers occupying runways and aircraft to protest delayed and cancelled flights, local media reported. The National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) said 44 per cent of Thursday's 1,227 scheduled flights were delayed by more than an hour and more than 40 flights were cancelled.
ANAC blamed bad weather for the delays Thursday. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, after holding an emergency meeting in Brasilia, said passengers need to be respected. For the past three months air traffic has been in chaos with controllers conducting a work slowdown following a midair crash in September. The situation was exacerbated by the December 5 failure of the communications system in the Brasilia control tower that halted traffic at three airports. Tempers flared Thursday In the capital Brasilia where a family protesting the delays stood on the runway in pouring rain. In the north-east provincial capital of Salvador dozens of passengers stormed an airplane, after waiting for hours at the gate. Rio de Janeiro's Santos Dumont airport started off the day with a power failure. The work slowdown by air traffic controllers followed a midair crash above the Amazon in September that led a Boeing 737 to go down, killing all 154 people on board. Afterward, controllers instituted a strict adherence to aviation regulations, such as observing flight limits and times between landings and takeoffs, to draw attention to their working conditions. The controllers charge that their workloads are too great, they are underpaid and have too few staff as investigators look into whether controllers' actions played a part in Brazil's worst airline disaster, in which a Gol Airlines passenger plane crashed after clipping a private executive jet. In early December, more than two months after the crash, the pilot of the American executive jet, who successfully made an emergency landing, received permission to leave Brazil. He is under suspicion of contributing to the crash of the larger plane.