Over 72,900 flights were cancelled in March, with almost every global region suffering a rise in cancellations with a notable exception for North America.
European flight cancellations drastically went up in March following repeated striking actions from aviation workers. In total, 14,405 European flights were scrapped in March, a 65% increase compared to the previous month, which registered 8,713 cancellations, according to Cirium data. Europe was the most prominent regional looser in a month that saw global cancellations rise to over 72,900, a 20% increase compared to 60,780 in February.
Cirium CEO Jeremy Bowen told The Irish Times the region’s struggles are due to “a number of last-minute air traffic control and airport strikes”, particularly the air traffic control (ATC) strikes in France that have impacted over 50 days in 2023 alone, a ten-fold rise on all of 2022. In Germany, aviation has also suffered its fair share of industrial action this year, including huge transport network strikes towards the end of March.
2. French epicentre
Ryanair said the French ATC strikes alone have caused it to cancel over 3,700 flights, impacting around 660,000 passengers, while easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren estimated up to 10 million passengers to have been affected by the strikes so far. Since a significant number of flights need to pass over French territory on their optimal routings, the strikes in the country are spreading havoc across the continent.
For example, data from Eurocontrol reveals 15% of the flights to/from Spain were impacted between March 1st and April 9th, while Germany, Italy and the UK experienced disruption to 6-8% of the flights due to the French airspace situation.
“It is unacceptable for French ATC to block travel around Europe, especially for hundreds of thousands of customers whose flights aren’t departing or arriving in France. While this is outside of our control, we would like to apologise to our customers for any inconvenience they may experience as a result of the strike action,” said a spokesperson for easyJet.
3. North America escapes the havoc
Four of five major geographic regions — Middle East & Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Europe — experienced a rise in cancellations in March, Cirium’s report revealed, however, North America registered a 16% reduction in flight cancellations.