Hundreds of thousands of passengers face flight chaos across Europe as French air traffic controllers start a five-day walk out.
Airlines have been asked to reduce their flight schedules in France by a quarter and more than 1,000 flights are expected to be cancelled. Travellers also face “severe delays”.
Ryanair called on the French government and European Commission to take immediate action to prevent the skies over Europe being closed by French air traffic control unions.
Europe’s largest low-fares carrier has been forced to cancel 45 flights today, with further cancellations possible and delays likely.
Lobby group Airline for Europe (A4E) warned of a week of disruption for hundreds of thousands of European passengers who will suffer by a wave of air traffic control strikes.
Control centres at Brest and Bordeaux will be affected from 5am today until 7pm on Friday, with the action in the south of France running from 5am on Tuesday until 5am on Friday.
Not only flights serving Paris are affected, but also services overflying France, including links from the UK and Italy, Switzerland and Spain. Furthermore, travellers have to expect severe delays.
British Airways said: ”Unfortunately in addition to cancelling some flights to and from France, other short-haul flights may also experience some disruption, given how many flights would normally use French airspace.
“We are still assessing which services may be affected on each day of industrial action, but we recognise the uncertainty the situation is causing and have introduced a more flexible rebooking policy.
“We will be using larger aircraft, where possible, to help affected customers and are doing all we can to reduce the levels of disruption.
“There may also be some disruption on roads and public transport to/from airports on some days so customers should allow extra time for their journeys.”
EasyJet said: “We are working to minimise the impact of the strike, but like other airlines flying to and from France there will be cancellations and potential delays.
“There is expected strike action for the rest of the week, once we have confirmation we will update you if your flight is affected.”
A4E managing director Thomas Reynaert said: “Already during the first weeks of 2017 European travellers become victims of yet another ATC strike – unbelievably, not only for a day but for a whole week.
“A4E urges the Commission to protect the rights of European travellers and work together with member states, air navigation service providers, unions and other stakeholders to minimise the impact on passengers.
“We cannot allow a small group of Europe’s 15,000 air traffic controllers restricting the rights of millions of European travellers.
“Following our call for action last year we have seen a positive reaction by some unions. It is now the right moment to build on that and minimise the impact of strike actions without questioning the individual right of workers to take industrial action.”
The Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation, representing Europe’s air navigation service providers, last month agreed to work together with A4E to enhance the performance of Europe’s air traffic management network in the future.
There were 217 ATC strike days in the EU in the period between 2010 and 2016 – equivalent to one disrupted day every nine days – costing €12 billion to the EU economy, A4E estimates.
Ryanair urged all passengers to sign the A4E’s ‘Keep Europe’s Skies Open’ petition, which it will present to the European Commission when it reaches one million signatures.
Chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said: “After a record year of ATC disruption in 2016, French air traffic control unions have announced further strike action this week, and as a result, we regret we’ve been forced to cancel 45 flights on Monday.
“All affected customers have been contacted and informed of their options and we advise all customers travelling on Monday to check the status of their flight on the Ryanair.com website before leaving for their airport.
“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.”
Manchester airport tweeted this morning: “So far one flight is cancelled due to the French strikes – Flybe to Paris at 6.10am and its return at 10.20am. Others are subject to delays.”
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