Tunisair uniform row leaves passengers stranded

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Tunisair passengers were stranded for hours Thursday after the airline was forced to suspend flights following a row between pilots and maintenance workers over uniforms.

Tunisian media reported that a fight had broken out between aircrew and maintenance workers, following tensions in recent weeks.

Police reinforcements were sent to the airport and a crisis cell including the transport minister was set up to tackle the situation.

The carrier later announced a “partial and progressive” resumption of flights after talks with trade union representatives, but warned of further disruption until the row is fully resolved.

Tunisia’s national airline apologized to passengers, saying the halt was aimed at “preserving the safety of the fleet” following an “altercation” at Tunis-Carthage International Airport.

Stranded passengers were angered by the debacle.

“Our country... must move away from these conflicts,” said Hamdi Fredj, a Tunisia living in Austria.

“It’s not normal for a conflict between staff to reach this level.”

Mechanics also reportedly held a recent sit-in in front of a union headquarters to denounce their treatment by pilots.

“A subsidiary of the company provided mechanics with new uniforms similar to those of the pilots. There was no consultation,” UGTT union official Imed Fatah told AFP.

“We call on both parties to do everything possible to ease this tension.”

Tunisair has 29 aircraft that usually operate an average of 47 flights a day to destinations mostly in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, according to its website.

Thursday’s debacle came as the airline struggles to extricate itself from financial difficulties following Tunisia’s 2011 revolution.

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