Air passengers already suffering from strike action in France faced further chaos on Wednesday night after air traffic controllers in Belgium announced plans to shut down its airspace.
It comes during a six-day French strike which left thousands of British passengers stranded due to severe delays and cancellations on flights to and from France. More than 400 flights were cancelled on Wednesday.
Belgian Air Traffic Control (ATC) will begin a two-hour strike at 6pm on Wednesday in protest over budget cuts, with the prospect of further shutdowns over the following 24 hours.
Ryanair said 260 of its flights to and from France had been cancelled, while 84 affected British airports. Other flights were operating with delays of up to four hours.
easyJet cancelled 150 flights, and warned all passengers “to be prepared for delays”. The airline planned to divert flights around Belgium and said it did not anticipate the new strike would have great impact.
British Airways said it had cancelled 17 flights. Cities affected include Barcelona, Toulouse, Lyon, Geneva, Tripoli, Milan Linate, Nice, Hamburg, Zurich, Frankfurt, Brussels, Basel and Marseille. All flights are either to or from Heathrow
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said it had been told to expect “short bursts of shutdown” of Belgian airspace lasting approximately two hours. It anticipated the threat of strike action to remain for 24 hours.
A spokesman for Ryanair said: “The slot delays caused by the French/Belgian ATC strikes today are continuing to cause severe disruptions for our customers. ATC delays of up to 4 hours are now being allocated to Ryanair flights operating to/from France, and also flying over France.
“We expect that these delays will continue to build through the evening as the backlog of delayed flights rises.
“In order to minimise disruptions on the rest of our network Ryanair has been forced regrettably to cancel approx. 15% of Ryanair’s total schedule of over 1,600 flights today.
“Belgian ATC have confirmed that they will strike between 18:00 and 20:00hrs (Belgian time) which will cause further disruptions to our flights.”
British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair said they would offer a full refund for any passengers whose flight is cancelled.