Spain's air traffic collapsed on Friday evening just ahead of the extended Constitution Day holiday due to a lack of controllers, many of whom had simultaneously called in sick at the same time, the state-controlled airport operator AENA said. The lack of controllers forced the closure of the airports of Madrid-Barajas, Palma de Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza, with a knock-on effect on the rest of the country.
Aena recommended would-be travelers to not go to the airport and to seek information from the airlines they are traveling with or from Aena's website itself. Leading Spanish carrier Iberia estimates air traffic is likely to be halted until midnight. About 200,000 people are at airports waiting to travel. Planes circling Barajas are being allowed to land, although they may be diverted to other airports.
Aena said in a statement that the controllers had "abandoned their posts en masse" in what it described as an "orchestrated" manner.
Controllers have been at loggerheads with the government after the public works ministry revealed they were making an average of 350,000 euros a year, with wages boosted by overtime. They eventually accepted less remunerative pay deals in August after a six-month conflict.