French air traffic controllers call for more strikes after hundreds of flights grounded
Industrial action by French air traffic controllers on Friday saw hundreds of flights grounded between France and the UK and beyond. Workers represented by the SNCTA union walked out over wages and staff shortages and have subsequently called for a further three days of action from 28-30 September.
The French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) asked all airlines operating in France to reduce their flight schedule from all French airports by 50 per cent on Friday.
Air France operated around 45 per cent of its short- and mid-haul schedule on Friday, with around 10 per cent of long-haul flights affected.
Ryanair’s operations were also severely impacted, with 80,000 passengers’ flights disrupted on Friday (420 flights) – mostly, the airline says, on routes overflying France. The day before the strike, it called on the EU to “take immediate action to protect overflights over French airspace” during the industrial action.
EasyJet cancelled more than 100 flights, while British Airways cancelled 22 short-haul trips across high-frequency routes to France and surrounding cities.
As well as cancellations, there has been disruption over French airspace, with many flights forced to divert. According to the global flight tracking service FlightRadar24, airlines such as TAP Portugal have been avoiding French airspace, choosing instead to loop to the west of the Bay of Biscay on a Lisbon to Brussels trip, making flights marginally longer.
Several flights were delayed at Gatwick on Friday, with delays between half an hour and just under two hours, across a range of airlines.
FlightRadar24’s live air traffic map shows a reduction in flight volume over France from Thursday to Friday. However flights are still operating in and over France, since domestic flights are protected by minimum service laws. Ryanair issued a statement to demand the European Union to intervene, protecting overflights “so that passengers who are travelling between Spain, Italy, Ireland, Germany, etc. are not disrupted just because they fly over France while French ATC unions strike.”
What to know if your flight is affected
Passengers are advised to check with their airline to see if their flight is operating. This is also possible using FlightRadar24 and airports’ online live departure boards. Those with flights impacted by the strikes are entitled to an alternative flight at the earliest opportunity, a voucher or a refund. Compensation is not due since industrial action by third parties is beyond the control of airlines.
If flights under 1,500km are delayed by more than two hours (rising to three hours for flights over 1,500km), passengers are entitled to “care and assistance” – this means reasonable food and drink costs. If you aren’t given a voucher, keep the receipts and submit a claim with the airline.
Further industrial action could see hundreds of thousands of flights impacted later this month unless an agreement is reached between the unions and French authorities.