Airport strikes cause holiday chaos

2013-06-12 11:53
Marignane -  The three-day strike by members of the European Transport Workers Federation began in France on Tuesday, forcing Ryanair to cancel 200 flights yesterday and 244 more on Wednesday, while easyJet scrapped 128 flights, mainly to France.

The Telegraph reports airlines including British Airways were also forced to cancel a number of flights. Delays of up to nine hours  have been reported with as much as 50% of movements across French airspace being cut.

According to the International Air Transport Association, which represents 241 scheduled carriers, the action saw 400 000 minutes of delays across Europe yesterday as flights were diverted onto alternative routes.

Disruptions are expected to worsen as Belgium, Slovakia and Hungary join, the delays the mass action. There are fears the disruption could last much of the week as a result of the controllers’ protest against EU plans cut delays by streamlining the current air traffic patchwork into a “single European sky”.

Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general, accused the strikers of holding passengers hostage, saying: “Reducing delays, cutting emissions, and raising safety levels will create 320 000 jobs across Europe. And it can be achieved without air traffic control job losses. Strikes and industrial action are therefore totally unjustified.”

France, which currently has five control centres – Athis Mons (serving Paris) Reims, Aix-en-Provence Bordeaux and Brest – is a key air traffic thoroughfare across Europe.

This led to withdrawal of some flights to Spain as well as France. In all there were 30 cancellations from Heathrow, 11 from Gatwick and 11 from Stansted.

Ryanair, which has been particularly badly hit, called on new laws to ban air traffic control strikes.

“It is unacceptable that the skies over Europe are repeatedly closed or flights are delayed by the unjustified strike action of tiny numbers of air traffic controllers,” a spokesperson said.

“These public servants are among the most overpaid and protected in Europe and yet they repeatedly opt for the strike weapon as a first, rather than a last resort.

“The solution to this problem is simple: remove their right to strike in exactly the same way that air traffic controllers in the USA are prevented by law from striking.”

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