Thousands of flights canceled due to strike by French air traffic controllers, BA

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109619237Representative image.


Representative image.

Thousands of flights were canceled in France and Europe on Thursday as a strike by French air traffic controllers over wages led to stoppages not seen in decades.

Airlines canceled more than half of their normal flight schedules at Paris’ two main airports, Orly and Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle, while many flights in the southern city of Marseille were also grounded.

Short- and medium-haul flights were the worst affected, while long-haul services experienced the least disruption.

Budget airline Ryanair reported 300 cancellations on Thursday, and easyJet and Transavia each reported 200.

A total of around 2,300 flights were expected to arrive or depart from French airports on Thursday, up from 5,200 the day before, the civil aviation authority DGAC told AFP.

Across Europe, another 2,000 flights were canceled and another 1,000 were forced to change their routes to avoid French airspace, trade body Airlines for Europe said.

The number of cancellations was at the highest level in two decades, said Augustin de Romanet, CEO of ADP, the company that operates the capital’s airports.

On Wednesday, De Romanet warned that “several tens of millions of euros” were at stake for airlines and airports “every strike day”.

Air traffic organization IATA accused French air traffic controllers of “blackmail” and making exorbitant demands.

A decision by the country’s largest air traffic controllers union, SNCTA, on Wednesday to withdraw their strike call after a deal was reached with management came too late to significantly ease the chaos, as the DGAC had already ordered airlines to cancel most of their flights Cancel.

Meanwhile, three smaller unions maintained their call to strike.

However, delays for the authorized flights were moderate, DGAC said, with many only about 30 minutes late.

French holidaymakers were particularly hard hit by the disruption, as many schools in the country were on spring break.

“There’s not much to do,” said one passenger, giving only her first name, Chloe.

She said she and a fellow passenger flew from Shanghai to Paris without being able to connect to their home city of Clermont-Ferrand, 420 kilometers (260 miles) to the south.

“My husband got into his car at 4 a.m. in Clermont to pick us up,” she said.

Several airlines told customers they could change their reservations for free or get a refund for their tickets.

The unions’ demands are in response to a planned overhaul of France’s air traffic control systems.

The strike calls followed an initial breakdown in talks, raising concerns about the risk of renewed action at the Paris Olympics from the end of July, when millions of visitors are expected in the capital.

  • Published on Apr 26, 2024 1:32 PM IST

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