Airline trade bodies have condemned air traffic control strikes which have caused one million minutes of delay across Europe this year.

Iata and lobby group Airlines for Europe (A4E) hit out after the 14th walk out by French air traffic controllers this year caused more than 300 flights to be cancelled and many others delayed yesterday.  

Governments were urged to take steps to ensure service continuity in the face of industrial action.

Iata European regional vice president, Rafael Schvartzman, said: “The current frequency of disputes is totally unacceptable. European air travellers have suffered an incredible one million minutes of delay and over 3,000 cancelled flights as a result of strikes this year.

“Every hour wasted impacts European productivity as businesses are disrupted. And it hurts holidaymakers when plans need to be altered.

“The time has come for European governments to work together to ensure the essential service of air traffic control is able to continue even during strikes.”

At least 15% of flights out of Paris were cancelled due to the 35 hours of industrial action which started on Wednesday night.

“Air traffic controllers are highly-compensated professionals in a dynamic industry. They should be embracing reforms that are critical to delivering the safety, capacity, cost and environmental improvements European air travelers deserve,” said Schvartzman.

A4E managing director, Thomas Reynaert, said: “A4E has repeatedly called on the European authorities to take action to prevent these unjustified ATC strikes.

“We cannot allow 15,000 air traffic controllers restricting the rights of millions of European travellers.

“Although we are not questioning the individual right of workers to take industrial action, the demands of increasingly mobile European citizens and businesses cannot be taken hostage by localised industrial action. It is about time to minimise the impact of these strike actions.”

Schvartzman added: “The European economy needs reliable air connectivity. It cannot afford to have its airspace closed like this.

“A starting point to keeping Europe’s skies open would be for each country to develop its own national airspace strategy, in consultation with airlines, which contains provisions for ensuring service continuity during periods of industrial action or equipment failure.”