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French air traffic control strike affects thousands of passengers

todaySeptember 16, 2022

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By Katy Austin

Transport correspondent

Ryanair plane in FranceImage source, Getty Images

Tens of thousands of passengers are set to be affected by a French air traffic control strike on Friday.

Ryanair has cancelled 420 flights, most of which were scheduled to fly over France, affecting 80,000 passengers.

EasyJet has cut 76 flights, British Airways has cancelled 22, while Air France said it would only run 45% of its short-haul flights.

Separately, on Monday 15% of Heathrow Airport’s schedule will be altered during Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral.

To ensure the skies over London fall quiet during the events, there will be flight cancellations, including 100 British Airways flights and four Virgin Atlantic flights.

French strikes

The strike action in France is being taken by the SNCTA air traffic control union in a row over wages, as inflation soars, and recruitment.

Ryanair says all passengers affected have been notified. The low-cost carrier normally operates more than 3,000 flights per day.

Neal McMahon, Ryanair operations director, said it was “inexplicable” that thousands of European citizens and visitors “will have their travel plans unfairly disrupted”.

“It is inexcusable that passengers who are not even flying to or from France are disrupted,” he said.

He said French laws protect French domestic flights, but not ones flying over the country.

“It is time that the European Union step in and protect overflights so that European passengers are not repeatedly held to ransom by a tiny French air traffic control union,” he said.

Budget rival EasyJet said it had cancelled flights at the request of French authorities.

EasyJet said: “While this is outside of our control, we would like to apologise to our customers for any inconvenience they may experience.”

Image source, Getty Images

British Airways said along with the 22 cancelled flights to and from Heathrow, there could be some extra delays on Friday.

Air France is only running 45% of its short and medium-haul flights, and 90% of long-haul. It has also warned that delays and last-minute cancellations cannot be ruled out.

The flight cuts affect the whole of France, the French civil aviation authority DGAC said. It added that it was currently working with the European air travel regulator Eurocontrol to help airlines avoid the country’s air space.

Strikes across the aviation industry caused severe disruption to Europe’s summer traffic, including ground and cabin personnel, who are seeking pay rises to cope with increased living costs amid high inflation.

In July, several strikes by firefighters and staff at Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport led to cancellations and delays.

Image source, Getty Images

Heathrow disruption

Separately, Heathrow Airport said Monday’s flight schedule would change during the Queen’s funeral.

Heathrow said that all take-offs and landings on Monday will be delayed for 15 minutes before and after the two-minute silence at the end of the funeral.

Following that, there will be no arrivals between 13:45 and 14:20 during the procession of the hearse, and no departures between 15:03 and 16:45 for the ceremonial procession via the Long Walk to Windsor Castle.

Between 16:45 and 21:00, departures will be reduced to support the committal service at St George’s Chapel.

Flights will also be diverted around Windsor Castle “to minimise noise during the private family service and interment”, it said.

The Civil Aviation Authority has issued guidance which means that air passengers whose flights are cancelled or badly delayed on Monday because of Heathrow’s changes will not legally be entitled to financial compensation. That is because these are likely to be deemed extraordinary circumstances.

However, airlines are offering customers refunds or re-bookings.

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