Air Traffic Control Strike in France Causes Thousands of Flight Cancellations

By Jesse Sokolow on 8 April 2015
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Charles de Gaulle Airport

Charles de Gaulle Airport

Air traffic control workers in France began a two-day strike on Wednesday, causing thousands of flights that would fly over French airspace to be cancelled and delayed.

The French Civil Aviation Authority DGAC asked airlines to cancel approximately 40% of their flights on Wednesday, and warned that that number could be as high as 50% on Thursday, April 9.

Air France, the country’s flag carrier, which has its main hub at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, has been hardest hit.  The airline said that it hopes to operate all of its long-haul flights on April 9, but that it plans to only operate around 50% of its medium-haul flights to and from Charles de Gaulle, and only 40% of flights to or from other French airports.

British Airways said that it “will be using larger aircraft, where possible, to help affected customers,” in a statement on its website.  However the airline also said that “in addition to cancelling some flights to and from France, other short-haul flights are also likely to experience significant delays throughout the two days, given how many flights would normally use French airspace.”

German flag carrier Lufthansa will also be greatly affected, and low-cost carrier Ryanair said that it was forced to cancel an additional 250 flights for April 9, resulting in more than 500 cancelled flights for the airline over the two-day period.

North American carriers will be affected as well.  American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines have all waived change fees for passengers traveling through France between April 7 and 9.

The strike was called by SNCTA, Syndicat National des Contrôleurs du Trafic Aérien, the main union that represents air traffic controllers, over disputes about working conditions for its members.  The union had originally called for the strike to take place between March 25 and 27, but pushed the dates back after the Germanwings crash on March 24 that killed 150 people.

The disruption to air travel is likely to continue beyond this week, as the SNCTA has already called for additional strikes to take place between April 16 and 18, and April 29 and May 2.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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