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French ATC strikes: week-long travel disruption confirmed
Posted on 06/03/2017


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Strikes threatened last week by French air traffic controllers have been confirmed and are already underway, taking place from 5am today until 7pm Friday. Consequent disruption is set to affect not only France but other European countries using French airspace.

Over 1,000 flights cancelled

Over 1,000 flights cancelled
© Markus Mainka/123RF

A five-day strike by French air traffic controllers began at 5am this morning, and is set to last until 7pm on Friday. The industrial action will affect French domestic flights, with reverberations in the UK, Italy, Switzerland and Spain.

Control centres at Brest and Bordeau will be out of action for the coming week. The French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) has told airlines to reduce their forseen flight schedule by 25% this week. Air France, grappling with its own worker strikes from Tuesday to Thursday, has since cancelled 17% of domestic flights from Paris today , but will operate all long-haul flights, and 99% of short- and medium-haul routes.

Travel delays and disruptions will also affect British carriers flying to France or using French airspace. British Airways, which is also facing strikes by cabin crew this week, has cancelled 40 flights today, mostly between the UK and France, although six flights on the Heathrow-Barcelona link have been grounded.

Services to Milan, Zurich, Basel and Geneva could also see delays and cancellations, but the carrier is using larger aircraft to mitigate the disruption.

Ryanair, Europe's greatest passenger carrier, has already cancelled 44 flights. The airline's marketing director Kenny Jacobs said, "We call on the French Government and European Commission to take immediate action to prevent thousands of European consumers from having their travel plans disrupted by a tiny group of ATC unions going on strike.

"They cannot stand idly by and allow another summer of disruption and travel misery for European consumers to take place."

EasyJet said it was working to minimise the impact of the strike but, like other airlines flying to and from France, there will be cancellations and potential delays. A spokesperson for the airline said, "Although this situation is outside of our control, we do understand that it can be very frustrating situation for all customers travelling."

In an attempt to ease disruption, British Airways has introduced a more flexible rebooking policy. Affected travellers are able to reschedule flights with no penalty.

This week's action from French air traffic controllers marks the first strike of the year from this sector. But if trends from past years continue, it could be the first of many strikes called by the country's air traffic controllers, meaning millions of pounds will be lost in revenue and extra costs for the airlines affected.

The strike seeks to contest wage and rota-related issues. French air traffic controllers argue that their German counterparts earn a better wage for less work.

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