French air traffic control strike off but disruption still forecast

French air traffic controllers have called off a planned strike on Thursday (April 25) which was expected to ground more than 2,000 flights and cause delays or cancellations to another 1,000 due to fly over France.

However, airlines have still warned of flight disruption including cancellations and delays due to the controllers’ SNCTA union withdrawing notice of the strike late on Wednesday.

Airlines for Europe (A4E), which represents carriers including Ryanair, easyJet, British Airways parent IAG, the Lufthansa Group and Air France-KLM, warned of “significant disruption”, saying the travel plans of thousands of passengers remain “in question” following the late notice.

In a statement A4E said: “Airlines do not have full clarity of what French air traffic control capacity will be tomorrow, meaning there will still be significant disruption for flight operations and passengers.”

Airlines had cancelled more than 2,000 flights in advance of the strike, the majority landing or departing from France. Another 1,000 flights would have had to divert away from French airspace.

Ryanair plans to cancel 500 flights due to fly over France today was reduced to 300 after the strike was called off.

Jet2 issued an assurance that any disruption to flights travelling through French airspace would be kept to a minimum.

EasyJet said it had been calling for better protection of passengers during times of French ATC strike action, “especially for the hundreds of thousands of customers using the French airspace but whose flights neither depart nor land in France”.

The strike was set to be one of the largest involving air traffic control in years and follows a series of walk outs by French controllers through last year.

A4E managing director Ourania Georgoutsakou said: “While the withdrawing of strike notice may offer relief for some passengers, its last-minute nature means there will still be significant disruption to flights in France and across parts of Europe tomorrow.

“This is a clear illustration of why we need an EU framework for minimising disruption from ATC strikes and for providing advance clarity and certainty on ATC capacity across Europe.”

She said: “Airlines will be working hard to fly as many flights as possible tomorrow, but the last-minute about turn by the largest union involved will be too little too late for many.”

A4E has called on the EU to impose restrictions on strikes by air traffic controllers, including a legally binding requirement for arbitration ahead of action, a 21-day notice period ahead of strikes, and 72-hour confirmation of employee participation in strikes, as well as protection for overflights.

Unions called the strike after a breakdown in negotiations on a pay increase and over measures to overhaul France’s air traffic control system.

Air France had warned of “significant cancellations and delays” during the strike and of residual disruption to follow it.

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