European airline groups have called on the European Union and individual national governments to “put an end” to air traffic controller strikes amid the three-day action by several French ATC unions that disrupted traffic in France and the continent at large. The strikes, which ran from Monday evening to Wednesday morning, forced several airlines to curtail their intra-European and French domestic schedules, resulting in the cancellation of at least 1,000 flights requiring French ATC services.
The actions effectively closed air traffic control centers at Charles de Gaulle and Orly in Paris, Beauvais, Lyon, Nice, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux and Nantes. As a result, the French Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile (DGAC) requested airlines to reduce their flight offerings in France by 30 percent.
“The strike action in France this week is causing misery to thousands of passengers as their travel plans are disrupted,” said European Regions Airline Association general manager of business development Paula Bangle. “The impact on airlines, businesses and passengers is considerable and costly. Airlines not flying to France will also be affected as they will have to fly around French airspace adding time, delays and fuel costs.”
The ERA added that it encourages greater communication and discussions among all stakeholders involved and urges the EU and national governments to act now to stop any future disruption.
The ATC strikes at several airports came as part of a national strike against proposed labor reforms by the French government.
According to fellow airline lobbying group Airlines for Europe (A4E), seven out of 10 ATC strikes in Europe since 2005 have occurred in France. “Two-thirds of all European ATC strike days are taking place in France; French controllers are on strike 24 days annually,” said A4E managing director Thomas Reynaert. “The European economy, its tourism and trade sectors pay a high price for French ATC strikes, namely €1.4 billion per year. We have no intention to question the fundamental right of workers to defend their interest, but we call on the French government to improve the situation. Solutions such as a compulsory 72 hours individual notification of participation in a strike, the protection of overflights while not at expense of the country where the strike originates, or an improved continuity of service have been identified. The French authorities now need to take action.”