October 2017 saw the cancellation and delaying of several flights across Europe thanks to a fresh round of ATC (Air Traffic Control) strikes in France. According to estimates, the strikes had affected around 100,000 passengers.
The strikes were organized by members of major air-traffic unions on a Monday night and were believed to be planned till the middle of the week. The reason behind the strikes was reported to have something to do with the labour reform policies put forth by current French President, Emmanuel Macron.
Some airlines were requested to eliminate 3 out of 10 flights while others had to be rerouted around French airspace. Needless to say, this led to additional congestion at other airports and caused immense delays.
Carriers Forced to Cancel
RyanAir, the largest budget operator, had to cancel a large number of flights; around 222 to be specific, which affected around 40,000 passengers.
Most of the cancellations occurred in Western Europe, with the UK being one of the worst affected. Several flights scheduled to fly from Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Luton, Edinburgh, and Stansted to Spain and France had to be cancelled.
RyanAir issued a statement where in it mentioned that the cancellations had to be done as a result of an “unjustified” ATC strike in France. The airline then went on to apologize to its passengers and provided them with alternative options, which included refunds, alternate flight transfers, and rebooking etc.
EasyJet also faced a tough situation as 60% of its routes pass through France. The carrier had to cancel several of its flights while another chunk had to deal with severe delays.
With crews and flights being grounded, there were knock-on cancellations at the end of the day as well.
Flybe cancelled around 20 flights, a number of them scheduled to fly from and to France. The cancelled flights included the ones that connect to other long-haul flights. Flybe issued an apology for the inconvenience caused and specified that the delays and cancellation occurred due to circumstances beyond their control.
Air France cancelled one out of 5 short-haul flights but managed to keep its long-haul services running.
British Airways had to cancel ten of its flights that were scheduled to fly from and to Nice. Other than that, the carrier had to shut 8 of its links to Barcelona. BA flights to and from Germany, Italy, and Switzerland were also impacted.
The carrier complained that the strikes would bring in more unnecessary disruption. Towards the end of the day, it managed to handle some of the cancellations by using a larger aircraft. Some of the carrier’s other solutions included allowing passengers to reschedule their trips.
France Dominates ATC Strike List
According to Airlines for Europe (A4E), 70% of ATC strikes carried out since 2005 were by French controllers. A4E’s Managing Director, Thomas Reynaert, stated that the impact of the ATC strikes was significant and that France’s key location caused the impact to spread across the continent.
A4E is currently working on a petition to prevent such strikes from taking place more often than necessary.