French air traffic controllers (ATC) are in the middle of a series of strikes against a pension reform. The third series started yesterday, at 5pm, and will last until Wednesday, 8 February, 6 am.
Ahead of the action, Ryanair and EasyJet cancelled a number of flights, not just ones scheduled to and from France, but also the ones merely flying over French airspace.
We have had to cancel a small number of our 2,500 daily flights as a result of yet another pointless French ATC strike, the third already this year.Neal McMahon, Ryanair operations director
“Also flights that do not operate through France may still be affected as 65% of easyJet flights operate through French air space and may be delayed before arriving for your flight”, an EasyJet spokesperson announced. “We expect that there could possibly be delays and cancellations due to the industrial action, therefore we advise all customers to check the status of their flight.”
Last week, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary already warned of another summer of travel chaos this year, partly due to the closed airspace in Eastern Europe because of the war in Ukraine. But what he foresees as more challenging for the industry are the French ATC strikes, which he estimates cause disruption to 18,000-20,000 passengers every time.
This time, Ryanair’s operations director Neal McMahon has indicated the airline only cancelled a “small number of flights” from their daily roaster, but he reiterated a call on the European Commission to protect overflights. “It is inexplicable that French air traffic control can once again hold European passengers and visitors to ransom. Even passengers who are not flying to or from France are impacted because they overfly French airspace at a time when French laws protect French domestic flights”, he said.
“The European Commission must step in and to preserve the free movement of people by protecting overflights from these needless strikes. Protecting overflights, as done in Italy and Greece is the simplest and most effective solution to avoid unnecessary mass disruption and must be implemented to protect passengers”, McMahon pleaded.