Avianca cancels flights for 3rd day

Colombia’s flagship airline Avianca canceled 21 flights Friday after canceling 24 flights Thursday and 46 flights Wednesday, according to authorities, who said a labor dispute between the government and air-traffic controllers is partly to blame.

An emailed statement from Colombia’s civil aviation authority Aerocivil said that as of noon Friday, Avianca had already canceled 21 of its 365 scheduled flights for the day. Another 25 Avianca flights have seen delays, it added. All of the flights canceled were domestic flights and included Bogota as either the departure or arrival city.

The statement made no mention of any international flights being canceled.

Representatives at Avianca, the main carrier of the airline group AviancaTaca Holding SA (PFAVTA.BO), weren’t available Friday to comment on its flight cancellations, which total 91 over the past three days.

Aerocivil said Colombia’s second-biggest domestic carrier, Lan Colombia, which is part of the Chilean flagship carrier LAN Airlines SA, has canceled two of its 136 scheduled flights Friday. A third carrier, Copa Colombia, which is part of the Panamanian airline group Copa Holdings, hasn’t canceled any of its 110 flights.

Speaking Friday morning on La FM radio station in Bogota, Aerocivil Director Santiago Castro said that unresolved contract negotiations between the government and air-traffic controllers are likely playing a role in Avianca’s cancellations. To pressure the government, Castro said air-traffic controllers for several weeks have been engaging in a “turtle plan” in which they purposely work slowly or call in sick en masse.

Castro also said bad weather, including morning fog in recent days in Bogota, was partly to blame for the flight delays and cancellations.

But Castro said it remains unclear why so many Avianca flights are being canceled when the other airlines are reporting no or few cancellations.

AviancaTaca shares on the Colombian Stock Exchange were 0.3% higher Friday at 4,420 pesos, compared with a 0.1% rise in the bourse’s benchmark index.

On Wednesday, after Avianca canceled 46 flights, the airline issued a statement urging the government to resolve the labor dispute with controllers. It said nearly 4,000 of its passengers were hurt by delays or cancellations on that day.

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