Transport Airlines

French air travel is crippled by air traffic controller strike

Jun 11, 2013 6:11 am

Skift Take

Nice of the controllers to do this before the summer season really heats up, but expect similar push back from other national air controllers as the EU exerts its authority.

— Jason Clampet

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Air France-KLM Group, EasyJet Plc and Deutsche Lufthansa AG are among airlines forced to slash services into France today as they endure a three-day strike by French air traffic controllers that cut 1,800 flights in total.

Air France SA said it aims to transport all long-haul passengers by reducing frequencies on key destinations such as New York, while travelers on flights in France or to Europe should seek to postpone. Lufthansa scrapped 171 flights today that serve cities including Paris, Toulouse, Lyon, or Marseille.

The strike responds to plans by European Union regulators to expand their powers in a bid to lower air-traffic charges and shorten flight routes in the bloc, challenging national controllers. Proposed draft legislation would give the European Commission greater authority to enforce performance standards for air-traffic-control organizations and would open up their support services such as meteorology to competition.

France’s air transport authority, DGAC, provided the estimate of 1,800 cancellations. Air France declined to break out the number of lost flights, saying the situation was in flux.

Pension protests

The protest is the first since 2010, when some flight controllers joined a protest against changes in French pension rules. The last strike triggered by controller complaints came in February 2008, when union members staged the four-day walk-out to protest against changed responsibilities for some areas.

This time, France’s civil air authority has asked airlines to cut by half the number of scheduled aircraft movements so flights can be managed by fewer controllers. The strike began this morning and is set to end June 14 at 5:59 a.m.

EasyJet said on its website that about 128 flights will be canceled each day. Passengers will be advised by e-mail of any cancellations and given the option of a refund or a transfer to another flight. EasyJet cancellations include 17 to and from Nice, 11 to and from Toulouse, and 22 to and from Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport.

Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe’s largest low-fare airline, said 102 flights would be affected and called on French authorities to intervene to end further disruptions. The right of air traffic controllers to strike should be revoked, the airline said in a statement yesterday.

With assistance from Jonathan Stearns in Strasbourg, France. Editor: Benedikt Kammel. To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Rothman in Toulouse at aerothman@bloomberg.net. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net. 

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