Airlines Lodge Complaints Over French ATC Strikes

July 24, 2018

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IAG, Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air have submitted complaints to the European Commission against France, saying its air traffic controllers’ strikes restrict freedom of movement within the EU.

In a joint statement, the airlines said they were not questioning the right to strike but believe France is breaking European Union law by not enabling flights over the country during industrial disputes. Passengers on flights over France are being denied their freedom to travel as a result of the strike, the airlines said.

“The right to strike needs to be balanced against freedom of movement,” IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said. “It’s not only customers flying in and out of France who are affected during French ATC strikes. Passengers on routes that overfly France, especially the large airspace that covers Marseille and the Mediterranean, are also subject to delays and massive disruptions.”

IAG group airlines include Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling.

French ATC strikes have increased by 300 percent over 2017, the airlines say, with France alone responsible for 33 percent of flight delays in Europe.

Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary also echoed his airline’s complaint against understaffing at European ATC providers saying they “are reaching the point of meltdown with hundreds of flights being cancelled and delayed daily either because of ATC strikes or because Europe’s ATC don’t have enough staff.

“When Greece and Italy have ATC strikes, overflights continue as normal. Why won’t France do the same?,” O’Leary added.

Eurocontrol, responsible for air traffic management across Europe, said over 16,000 flights have been delayed this year so far due to ATC strikes, with more than two million passengers affected.