Thousands of Azoreans living abroad face ruined plans for the 2012 Santo Cristo Religious Festivities due to a labor dispute standoff with pilots flying SATA International and the SATA Group.
On April 12, SATA International pilots announced a three-phased nine-day strike planned for April and May. On April 25, the first stage of teh strike scheduled for April 27, 28, and 29 was called off. The strike days scheduled for May 11, 12, and 13 and May 18, 19 and 20 were not canceled.
The “Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres” (Festival of Our Lord of the Miracles) is the largest religious celebration of the Azores, taking place in Ponta Delgada from May 10 to May 17. The dates for the feast overlap with the dates for the strike announced by SATA International for the second and third weeks of May.
SATA International is the only commercial airline providing direct flights between the United States and the Azores.
The annual celebrations, traditionally taking place on the 5th week following Easter or the 5th Sunday after Easter, will be presided this year by D. Rino Passigato, the current appointed Roman Catholic Apostolic Nuncio in Portugal.
Nearly 400 years old, the tradition attracts many thousands of Azorean pilgrims, mainly from the United States and Canada, flying home to participate in the religious events which culminate with a 6-hour long parade and a massive fireworks display. The festivities will be broast on the Internet.