Air travel in France has ground to a near halt due to an air traffic control strike.
Around 1,000 flights have been cancelled and hundreds more delayed today (September 16) due to hard hitting industrial action over pay and conditions.
The French Air Traffic Control (ATC) has led Ryanair to pre-emptively cancel 420 flights, most of which were scheduled to fly over France, affecting 80,000 passengers, reports the Mirror.
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Airline easyJet has cancelled 76 flights, British Airways just 11 short-haul journeys and Air France is running a whittled down service of 45% of short-haul flights.
Airports across the UK have seen their schedules affected, with Liverpool's John Lennon Airport alone suffering 12 cancellations to and from cities including Madrid, Alicante, Barcelona, Nice and Palma.
There is a high chance that more flights will be impacted throughout the day, with Air France admitting: “Delays and last-minute cancellations cannot be ruled out.”
Live departure and arrival boards for French airports highlights the impact of the strikes, with the vast majority of planes scheduled to come into and out of Charles de Gaulle today no longer running.
The impact of the strikes has been felt far beyond France, with many planes flying through its air space impacted along with those caught up by the knock on affect of altered schedules.
The Directorate General for Civil Aviation in France has urged passengers to contact their airlines ahead of flying, and to avoid travelling if they can.
The Syndicat majoritaire des contrôleurs aériens union, which has organised the industrial action, is pushing for higher wages amid rising inflation and raising concern about future recruitment.
Ryanair, which currently has workers in Spain striking and has been accused of poor treatment by its employees in the UK, has taken a strongly anti-strike stance.
Ryanair Ops Director, Neal McMahon stated: “It is inexplicable that thousands of European citizens/visitors will have their travel plans unfairly disrupted tomorrow, (Fri 16th Sept) by yet another French ATC strike.
"Ryanair is once again calling for immediate EU action to prevent these ATC strikes disrupting the travel plans of thousands of European citizens/visitors.
"It is inexcusable that passengers who are not even flying to/from France are disrupted because they overfly French Airspace at a time when French laws protect French domestic flights.
"It is time that the EU step in and protect overflights so that European passengers are not repeatedly held to ransom by a tiny French ATC union.”
Ryanair has called for French ATC unions to be stripped of their rights to strike, and instead resolve disputes by going to an arbitrator.
Removing workers' right to strike would increase the negotiating power of company chiefs and diminish that of workers.
The Syndicat union said in a statement: “Between 2029 and 2035, one-third of the (air traffic control) workforce is retiring. It is imperative that we anticipate and plan recruitment.
“If not, the consequences will be inevitable in terms of the public service, working conditions and flexibility.”
Speaking to Daily Star, easyJet said: "Due to national air traffic control strike action in France this Friday 16 September affecting all French airports and airspace, airlines operating to and from French airports have been requested by the French authorities DGAC to make some cancellations on Friday 16 September. As a result we expect some disruption to our French flying programme as well as on routes that operate via French airspace.
“We will be contacting any impacted customers in advance via SMS and email and providing options to change their flight for free or receive a refund.
"We advise all customers travelling on Friday 16 September to check the status of their flights on our Flight Tracker on the mobile app or website at easyjet.com/en/flight-tracker for live updates.
“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.”
Daily Star has contacted easyJet, Ryanair and BA for comment.
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