- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 23, 2006

PORTUGAL

Pilots’ protest strands travelers

LISBON — A protest by Portuguese pilots at government plans to raise their retirement age caused delays of about two hours for three TAP-Portugal flights yesterday, an airline spokesman said.

The affected flights were between Lisbon and the destinations of Amsterdam; Frankfurt, Germany; and the island of Terceira on Portugal’s mid-Atlantic Azores archipelago, he said.

Some 1,700 members of the Union of Civil Aviation Pilots have since Wednesday refused to work on their days off and holidays to contest the proposal to raise the retirement age from 60 to 65, which they argue threatens air safety.

The government argues that the change will not threaten safety since the health of pilots over the age of 60 will be tested every six months and any pilot who is deemed unfit to fly will be allowed to retire before 65.

BRITAIN

Fog lifts, letting planes take off

LONDON — Tens of thousands of passengers headed home for their Christmas holidays yesterday after three days of chaos at British airports caused by fog. By midafternoon, the fog had largely lifted. British Airways, which suffered the bulk of the cancellations, resumed all domestic flights from London’s Heathrow Airport at midday.

British Airways said it hoped to run 95 percent of services yesterday and full service today, Christmas Eve.

On Thursday, 350 flights were canceled and a similar number were stopped on Friday.

There are some 1,300 departures and arrivals a day from Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest international airports. The airline said it used bigger planes to help ease the backlog.

GERMANY

Christmas sales brisk before tax increase

Christmas sales in Germany increased yesterday as shoppers snapped up goods ahead of an increase in the value-added tax on Jan. 1, a spokesman of the retail trade federation said.

“After a slow start during the first half of December, the turnover has increased,” said Hubertus Pellengahr, a spokesman for the HDE federation.

“If that continues, we will achieve our objective,” he said, referring to the federation’s forecast of a 2 percent year-on-year increase for the Christmas period.

In January, the value-added tax, a type of sales tax, increases from 16 percent to 19 percent.

ROMANIA

Leader hosts children with AIDS, cancer

BUCHAREST — Romanian President Traian Basescu yesterday hosted dozens of children, some suffering from AIDS or cancer, at his palace in the capital for a Christmas reception.

Invitees also included Gypsy children from southern Romania, as well as schoolchildren from neighboring Bulgaria and Ukraine and Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdnestr.

“I want you to know, children from Ukraine, Transdnestr, Bulgaria, that you are always welcome in Romania,” said Mr. Basescu, whose country, along with Bulgaria, joins the European Union in January.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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