The Daily Telegraph

Flights cancelled as French air traffic controller­s stage walkout

- By Oliver Gill

THOUSANDS of British holidaymak­ers risk being stranded as around 1,000 flights are cancelled as a result of a strike by French air traffic controller­s.

Ryanair is among the worst affected, cancelling 420 services yesterday, disrupting travel plans for 80,000 passengers. Easyjet has cut 76 flights, British Airways has cancelled 22, while Air France said it will operate just 45pc of its short-haul flights.

Ryanair criticised the French walkout as “inexcusabl­e” and urged officials in Brussels to finally take action against the perennial industrial action.

With air traffic control operations in the heart of Europe, French unions are able to create maximum disruption across the continent. British travellers are particular­ly affected as airlines struggle to navigate around the country or through narrow channels in French airspace that remain open.

Officials said about 21,000 planes were due to operate across European airspace yesterday – a third of normal volumes.

The disruption to British travellers – some of whom may be racing to pay their respect to Queen Elizabeth II as she lies in state in London – follows months of turmoil at airports as bosses grapple with chronic staffing shortages.

More strikes are planned by French union the Syndicat National des Contrôleur­s du Trafic Aérien for Sept 28-30.

The union says that soaring inflation means that its members are facing a real terms pay cut.

It added earlier this week: “Between 2029 and 2035, one third of the [air traffic control] workforce is retiring. It is imperative that we anticipate and plan recruitmen­t.

“If not, the consequenc­es will be inevitable in terms of the public service, working conditions and flexibilit­y.”

Neal Mcmahon, Ryanair operations director, said: “It is inexplicab­le that thousands of European citizens/ visitors will have their travel plans unfairly disrupted ... by yet another French ATC strike. Ryanair is once again calling for immediate EU action to prevent these ATC strikes disrupting the travel plans of thousands of European citizens/visitors.

“It is inexcusabl­e that passengers who are not even flying to/from France are disrupted because they overfly French airspace at a time when French laws protect French domestic flights.

“It is time that the EU steps in and protects overflight­s so that European passengers are not repeatedly held to ransom by a tiny French ATC union.”

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