French air traffic control strike disrupts UK flights

Strike action by an air traffic controllers’ union in France over budget cuts has caused five times as many flight cancellations as predicted, leaving hundreds of British air passengers stranded at airports, The Telegraph has reported.

Airlines including Ryanair, British Airways and easyJet have cancelled several more of their flights than predicted earlier, and said that they expected further cancellations today. As on Tuesday, Ryanair has cancelled 210 flights to and from France, while 52 affected British airports; British Airways cancelled 12 flights from Heathrow and easyJet cancelled 101 flights, half of which were to or from UK airports. Ryanair had earlier predicted that a total of only 26 would be cancelled, while easyJet predicted 28 cancellations.

British Airways said that it is expecting a further 14 flights from Nice, Zurich, Lyon, Barcelona, Marseille, Toulouse and Geneva to be cancelled tody – all scheduled to travel to Heathrow. Ryanair said that it expected another 250 flights to be cancelled, though it remains unclear as to how many would affect British airports.

The strike action is also expected to cause 14,000 hours of delays, and the airlines have warned of potentially worse delays to all flights crossing French airspace.

All three – British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair – said they would offer a full refund for passengers facing flight cancellation.

A spokesman for Ryanair said yesterday: ‘At this time, French ATC (Air Traffic Control) are predicting that slot delays will be ‘materially worse’ tomorrow (Wednesday).

‘The French Authorities (the DGAC) have requested Ryanair to cancel up to 20% of our flight program for Wednesday, in order to ease the pressure on French ATC services.

‘As we wish to minimise delays and disruptions for our customers we have decided to cancel approx 15% of our scheduled flights on Wednesday, which will principally effect flights operating to/from France and Spain.’

Originally, the two biggest air traffic controllers’ unions in France have voted for a six-day strike from Tuesday in protest over budget cuts. However, one of the unions withdrew from strike action. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has condemned the strike action, alleging that it targeted holidaymakers just at the peak of a busy summer season.