How Can Ten People Paralyze a Country? Ask Greece

This was not a good week to be traveling in beleaguered Greece. I know. I was there.

I’m just back from a whirlwind trip to Greece for an upcoming Nightline story (unrelated to the economic mess.) Well, it would have been a whirlwind trip, but for the excruciating airport delays. As the world knows, Greece is facing economic collapse. They’ve been spending vast sums more than they have. Europe is reluctantly bailing them out, but requiring harsh austerity measures.

Much of my trip was spent in airports. Although air traffic controllers can’t legally strike, they were able to grind air travel to a halt with work stoppages and slowdowns.

An exasperated and exhausted manager at the Athens airport – a sparkling legacy of the 2004 Olympics – explained to me that it was all the work of just ten controllers. Under government austerity measures most civil servants will receive just 60% of their normal salaries.

But the air traffic controllers think they deserve better. So, they’ve paralyzed air travel. In a country that depends massively on tourism it is crippling. The domestic airlines are hemorrhaging millions, so are the airports.

What the air traffic controllers are losing amounts to a few thousand dollars a month. What they are doing to the Greek economy is costing millions.

A very weak economy gets worse.