More misery was piled onto travellers this weekend after the disruption caused by the snow in the UK when Spanish air traffic control walked out in an unexpected wildcat strike.

Airlines are expecting disruption to services leaving the UK today and for holidaymakers returning to the UK after the strike closed Spanich airspace on Friday night.

Overnight Spanish authorities were said to be preparing to declare a State of Alert this morning with the military expected to move in to take control of the country’s 47 airport traffic control towers.

Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, Spain’s deputy prime minister, warned: “If a controller does not show up to his work place he will be placed immediately in custody accused of a crime which could mean serious prison sentences.”

In a statement from Thomson Airways the charter carrier said it “was doing everything possible to minimise the disruption to their holidays”.The statement continued: “During this strike, the main priority for Thomson Airways, the airline for Thomson and First Choice, is to minimise inconvenience to its customers.  

“Customers on holiday in Spain may experience some disruption to services whilst in resort and our overseas teams are providing welfare and accommodation for those customers that may be unable to return home at this time. All customers are advised to check this website for the latest information. We are monitoring the situation and will provide updates accordingly.”

Since the start of the strike on Friday evening 1,686 of the 5,032 flights due to leave Spanish airports have been cancelled and the travel plans of 330,000 passengers have been disrupted.

The strike was timed to coincide with a major Spanish holiday and has prompted lowcost carrier Ryanair to cancel 74 flights. The walkout is the latest spat in a long-running dispute Spanish air traffic control is having about a partial privatisation of the service which were ratified last week.