Top airline chiefs are demanding action to keep Europe’s skies open during air traffic control strikes.
The chief executives of British Airways owner International Airlines Group, Ryanair and easyJet were among those signing a ‘call for action’ at the summit in Brussels.
The meeting took place amid another walkout by French ATC unions as part of a general strike, leading to hundreds of flight cancellations.
Lobby group Airlines for Europe (A4E) estimated ATC strikes have cost up to €9.5 billion due to 167 strike days causing 30,000 cancellations in the past five years.
The overall impact amounts to around €5.6 billion in reduced tourism spending or just above €930 million a year, according to a PwC report commissioned by A4E.
Airlines have faced 20 ATC strikes so far this year, including nine in June alone.
Carolyn McCall, chief executive of EasyJet, which issued a profits warning earlier this week as a result of flight disruption, said: “ATC strikes are one of the most damaging issues facing passengers and airlines today.
“It is an immediate and pressing issue, but there is currently no process in place, legislative or otherwise, to tackle it on a European level.
“We are at the mercy of unreasonable and disproportionate strike action, and our passengers lose out.”
A4E managing director Thomas Reynaert said: “The European aviation sector – with 900 million passengers each year – is one of the best performing parts of the European economy.
“Any disruption has severe knock-on effects on tourism and other sectors.
“We cannot let this destruction of productivity continue. These latest figures should provide a wake-up call for politicians in Brussels and the member states to work together with stakeholders on long-term solutions to protect individual mobility and European prosperity.”
He added: “Tourism plays a major role in the EU economy and is the third largest social-economic activity in the EU generating over 5% of EU GDP.
“Southern European states suffer more than others from ATC strikes because passengers are unable to reach their holiday destination.
“The EU Commission needs to put the tourism sector back into the spotlight – there are barely better programmes to tackle high rates of youth unemployment in southern Europe.”
Suggestions put forward by the airlines in their call for action include for air traffic controllers and their unions to voluntarily commit to:
• Participate in arbitrary or conciliatory procedures before taking industrial action.
• Protect flights overflying the country affected by industrial action while ensuring this does not come at the expense of flights to and from the country affected.
• Provide a 21-day advance notification of strike action.
• Provide a 72 hour advance notification of participation in industrial action, at individual employee level, so that airlines can better anticipate the level of disruption.
• Implement co-operation mechanisms to explore means to minimise the impact of ATC service disruption.
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