Strikes caused the delay and cancellation of hundreds of flights in Europe this week, leading airline and travel associations to demand EU action to mitigate the effects.

Italian air traffic controllers based in Rome, Milan and Brindisi were due to strike for four hours from 13:00 on Friday, leading to the cancellation of domestic and European services.

In Germany, security staff at Cologne, Dusseldorf and Stuttgart airports staged a strike over pay on Thursday (January 10) which caused delays to more than 110,000 passengers. This following a four-hour strike at Berlin’s Tegel and Schoenefeld airports on Monday as part of the same dispute.

German’s largest trade union Verdi has warned of further strikes at airports.

Ahead of the Italian air traffic controllers’ strike, EasyJet warned: “Every airline flying to and from Italy, as well as those flying within Italian airspace, will be affected.

“We are doing everything possible to minimise the impact to our customers.”

Airline lobby group Airlines for Europe A4E said: “Millions of travellers will continue to have their travel plans disrupted this year unless EU and national policy makers make this issue a priority.”

Thomas Reynaert, A4E managing director, said: “There is a clear increase in the frequency and duration of ATC [air traffic control] strikes in Europe, with 30 days of strikes in 2018 compared with 24 days in 2017.

“This trend cannot continue. We urge national and EU politicians to address the situation immediately.”

The European travel agents’ and tour operators’ association ECTAA joined A4E in appealing to the EU.

ECTAA president Pawel Niewiadomski said: “We acknowledge the right to strike, but this cannot be at the expense of travellers in Europe.

“We join A4E in their call to national and European regulators to address the issue as a matter of urgency to avoid continuous travel disruptions.”