Passengers fear the worst for their travel plans over the next week due to an Air Traffic Control strike in France. Two of the biggest air traffic controller unions announced the beginning of a six-day strike on Tuesday 24thJune. This is creating total chaos amongst passengers traveling to and from France, as a large number of flights are being cancelled, leaving passengers stranded. British Airways have already had to cancel three flights, from London Heathrow to the French cities of Marseille, Toulouse and Lyon. Easy Jet which is the second largest airline in France (operating from 14 major airports) have estimated that approximately 50% of French-connecting flights will have to be cancelled as the air traffic control strike leaves them with no alternative option. Ryanair is another major airline that will be affected by the strike. In addition to these airlines, it has been said that the strike could have a knock-on effect for flights operating across Europe that pass through French airspace.
The purpose of the strike is to protest against government aviation cuts forecasted between 2015 and 2019. Out of 4,000 air traffic controllers, 2,400 voted in favour of the protest. The air traffic controllers have complained about the quality of their working conditions and so are demanding to be acknowledged by the government and so this strike should highlight their importance. The strike initially begun with the rail services in France, which lasted 10 days and severely disrupted both domestic and foreign travel. The air traffic control strike is not just affecting holidaymakers, it is also affecting many students across Europe that are studying on their Erasmus year abroad. Examinations are now over and students are wishing to return home to their families, yet this strike is preventing them from doing so. A French student studying in Valencia has already reported that on Tuesday evening she was turned away at the check-in desk and was told that her evening flight to Paris Orly Airport had been cancelled (flights to Charles de Gaulle were also cancelled). She was advised to return in the early hours of the following morning to board a different flight but she was warned that it might also be cancelled. There is nothing to guarantee passengers a flight home considering the circumstances. As Tuesday 24th June was the first day of the strike many passengers were shocked to find that their flights had been cancelled. The airports in France were overflowing with passengers unable to fly. However news about the strike is spreading fast and so passengers will be prepared for more disappointment over the duration of the week.
According to EC Regulation 261/2004, passengers can claim compensation for flight delays or cancellations that cause heavy delays. However this air traffic control strike is being regarded as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ as it is out of the airline’s control – but please remember that airlines are not entitled to use this as an excuse for knock-on effect delays or where the flights are over different airspace and so passengers may still be able to make a valid claim for flight delay compensation. The strike is chiefly affecting countries South of France mainly in Spain, Morocco and Portugal. However, it has also been estimated that approximately 350 flights are scheduled between Britain and France during the planned strike period and so delays are to be expected.