UPDATE 1-Chile's airports to resume normal operations as strike ends
(Adds comments from Defense Minister, LATAM Airlines)
SANTIAGO Dec 20 (Reuters) - Chile's Defense Minister said the government and workers tied to the civil aviation authority reached an agreement Sunday, ending a four-day strike that forced airlines to cancel hundreds of flights and left thousands of passengers stranded.
"We want say to all the Chileans who were affected (by the strike) that we deeply regret this situation, that we will go the extra mile together with the airlines, with all of our staff and also with workers from the civil aviation authority to reverse this situation," said Defense Minister Jose Antonio Gomez.
LAN, Chile's flagship airline and part of LATAM Airlines , had said earlier on Sunday that domestically, it was only flying from Chile's capital Santiago to Punta Arenas, Temuco and Calama, affecting 80 percent of its flights.
"Due to the end of the strike, LAN will resume operation of all its flights within Chile in the coming hours," the carrier said.
LAN said that as part of its contingency plan it will add 16 domestic flights to its normal itinerary between December 20-22, but warned that considering the high occupancy rates in the run-up to the Christmas holiday, relocating passengers affected by the strike could take several days.
The regional carrier's chief executive, Enrique Cueto, told local newspaper La Tercera, that the strike was likely to cost LAN between $10 million and $15 million.
The work stoppage was initially set to only last 48 hours.
In September, a 24-hour strike stranded thousands of travelers and created long lines at airports after a majority of workers affiliated with the DGAC, or civil aviation authority, went on strike to demand improved benefits and working conditions.
After two months of negotiations, DGAC workers, which includes air traffic controllers, said this week that they had rejected the government's proposal for a state subsidy to improve their pensions and went on strike again. (Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Diane Craft)
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