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.


UK airline anger at latest French strike

UK airlines are being forced to cancel flights and are expressing their anger over a strike by French air traffic controllers.

The three-day strike, which starts today, has forced Luton-based low-cost airline, Easyjet, to cancel almost 130 flights, including scheduled flights to and from Nice, Toulouse and Paris Charles de Gaulle airports.

The company commented, ‘EasyJet and all other airlines operating to and from France have been advised to expect only 50 percent of normal services, which means we will be required to cancel approximately 128 flights each day.’

UK-based British Airways and Ireland-based low-cost carrier, Ryanair, are also facing disruption, with Ryanair cancelling 102 flights today alone and expressing its anger by calling for French government and European Commission intervention to stop the strike from extending to its full three days.

A spokesman for Ryanair commented, ‘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. 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. We are into the peak summer season in Europe and already the French air traffic controllers are engaged in strike action, which will result in 102 Ryanair flights being cancelled on Tuesday, with many others at risk of disruption.’

‘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. Until then, it is up to the EU Commission and French Government to ensure there are no further cancellations on Wednesday and Thursday as a result of these unwarranted strikes.’

The strike is taking place in protest against plans by the EU to create a single European airspace. Air traffic control unions across Europe fear that the so-called Single European Sky project will affect their members working conditions as well as public safety. In support of the protest, strikes or other industrial action could also take place from Wednesday of this week in the UK, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Slovakia.

Strike causes Easyjet to cancel Milan flights

Easyjet, a no-frills airline based in Luton, UK, has been forced to cancel flights to Milan in Italy later this week due to strike action.

The company has cancelled more than 60 flights that were scheduled for the Linate and Malpensa airports in Milan for tomorrow, Wednesday May 29, including flights to the UK airports Gatwick and Luton. The strike by airport staff at the two Italian airports will last for twenty-four hours, according to SEA Group, the airports’ operator. The company has said that it will provide live updates via its twitter feed regarding the impact that the strike is having.

Easyjet has issued a statement saying, ‘In order to minimise the disruption to passengers and to allow sufficient time to make alternative plans, Easyjet has taken the decision to proactively cancel some flights to and from both airports. All passengers travelling to or from the Milan airports on that day are strongly recommended to check the status of your flight before heading to the airport to avoid any unnecessary disruption.’

In some cases, Easyjet has arranged to reroute flights from Gatwick and Luton to Turin, from where it will provide a coach connection to Milan.

The company is also expecting disruption at Naples airport due to local industrial action, particularly with delays through security checkpoints. It will therefore be opening its bag drop three hours before the departure of flights from the airport to help ease congestion.

Full details of changes to the airline’s schedules for the affected airports can be obtained from Easyjet at


Iberia Employees to Strike Against Job Cuts

Passengers due to travel with Iberia, the Spain based airline that is owned by International Airlines Group (IAG), may face difficulties in the near future as unions have announced 15 days of strikes.

The airline has announced that its management and the six unions representing employee groups have failed to reach an agreement on the issue of a transformation plan.

As part of the transformation plan, the airline wants to cut its routes, and focus on its profitable operations. The airline will also be reducing its staff by 3,147 operatives, 30 percent less than an original figure of 4,500, and will use a current layoff programme until 2015.

Commenting on the strike action at Iberia, Gabriel Mocho, the civil aviation secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), said, ‘The fingerprints of Willie Walsh (CEO of IAG, the parent group of Iberia and British Airways) are visible in the breakdown in talks that led to this declaration. Orders from above have clearly denied Iberia the freedom to achieve a joint negotiated plan with unions to secure a profitable future for the airline.

That insistence on massive cost cutting and job cuts doomed the talks, leaving the unions no recourse except industrial action – a stance that seems to have widespread support at all levels in Spain.’

In a statement, the airline said, ‘The unions’ rejection of the offer and announcement of an initial 15-day strike to be followed by others, actions which the union themselves described as ‘uncontrollable’, were disproportionate and a threat that is intolerable to the company, its customers, and society at large.

At a time of weakness for Iberia, this announcement of such a disproportionate action only aggravates an already difficult situation. The company will use all legal means at its disposal to make the adjustments needed to restore it to profitability, and to have a future.

When and if the strike dates are confirmed, Iberia would do everything in its power to offer solutions and travel alternatives to its customers, as it has done in the past.’

Iberia Unions Cancel Strikes

Unions for Iberia, the Spain based airline owned by International Airlines Group (IAG), have called off six days of planned strikes.

The unions of the striking workers called off a six-day strike before Christmas after meeting with the airline management, and on advice of the mediation and arbitration service.

The company has issued a statement saying, ‘No agreement was reached at the meeting, despite Iberia’s undertaking to be flexible in considering the proposals advanced by the unions. However, though the opportunity to move forward was missed, the meeting could be another step towards future negotiations.

Iberia hopes that in the future the possibilities of dialogue and negotiations will be exhausted before any new strikes are called since they inflict great harm on the company and its customers.

Iberia is delighted that its customers may now look forward to travelling without problems, though it regrets the damage already caused to company’s public image and to its business.’

The airline is also commencing negotiations with the unions on its Transformation Plan, and is holding meetings with representatives of ground staff, cabin crews, and pilots on December 13, 2012.

As part of a transformation plan, the airline will be cutting down its routes, and will stay focused on its profitable operations.

The airline will be terminating its services to Athens, Istanbul and Cairo from mid-January, 2013; and long-haul services to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and Havana in Cuba, from April 1, 2012.

In a statement, the airline chief executive officer, Rafael Sanchez-Lozano, said, ‘Iberia has announced a Transformation Plan intended chiefly to restore profitability, ensure our future, and to transform us into an airline that is prepared to meet the challenges being faced by the industry, and, most importantly, to meet the expectations of our customers.’

UK Border Agency Employees Call off Strike

A planned strike to be held tomorrow, July 26, 2012, by employees of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), the UK government’s border control agency and a part of the Home Office, has been called off.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, which are employed by the Home Office, had earlier announced a strike on July 26, 2012, over a long-running disagreement with the government on issues that included job cuts, reimbursement and privatisation.

The industrial action was likely to affect London Heathrow Airport, especially with the airport being the entry point for around 90 percent of the international visitors flying into the city for the 2012 Olympic Games.

In an important development in the talks between the disputing groups, the UK Home Office has agreed to offer 800 new permanent jobs at the borders, including those at Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and other airports and ports in the UK, following which the industrial action has been called off.

PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said, ‘These new jobs are a welcome step towards a recognition that the Home Office has been cracking under the strain of massive job losses, and that the answer is not more cuts but more investment.

We are pleased that with these new posts and the progress made in talks we are able to avert a strike ahead of the Olympics. But we first raised our concerns 18 months ago, so it is deeply regrettable that ministers allowed this dispute to escalate.

I would like to place on record my admiration for our members in the Home Office and elsewhere who have been subjected to a disgraceful and unprecedented level of vitriol from ministers and sections of the media in recent days.

These staff work tirelessly to serve the public and only want to improve the very important services they provide, not see them go to ruin before their eyes because of government cuts.’


London Stansted Airport Baggage Handlers to Strike As Talks Fail

London Stansted Airport in the UK has issued a warning for passengers travelling to and from the airport on May 23, 24, 26, 27 and 28, and June 2 to 6 2012.

The airport has announced that members of the GMB and Unite unions, which represent the ground-based handling staff at the airport, will take planned periods of industrial action on those dates. The unions announced the strike action as talks aimed at resolving a dispute with Swissport International, a company that provides ground support services at Stansted Airport, were said to have failed. The dispute concerned work rosters.

The seven days of industrial action will include the following schedule:

From 05.30 hrs on May 23 to 05.30 hrs on May 24, 2012.

From 05.30 hrs on May 26 to 05.30 on May 28, 2012.

And 05.30 hrs on June 2 to 05.30 on June 6, 2012.

The airport notification states, that ‘it has contingency plans in place and expects to operate a full flight schedule. Stansted Airport will be open and plans to operate as normal at all times.’

Gary Pearce, the GMB organiser, has said in a statement, ‘GMB negotiators have been in talks to reach an agreement to resolve this issue since the agreed suspension of the strike action scheduled over Easter. It is a shame that Swissport made and then withdrawn a number of proposals including a return to the original 4 days on and 2 days off roster which would have settled the dispute. The proposals were withdrawn last Friday. GMB gave notice of further strike action on last Tuesday while have continuing to negotiate but without success. No one from Swissport has made any attempt to contact GMB over the weekend despite knowing that we are available 24/7 to meet with them. It seems we are at the end of the line and that strike action will begin at Stansted airport form 0530 on the 23 May until 0530 on the 24 May.’

Portuguese ATC Strike Set To Cause Disruption

Travel disruption is expected this weekend as air traffic controllers from Portugal’s air navigation services provider, NAV, prepare to step up their strike action.

Airline passengers travelling to or from Portugal this weekend should be prepared for delays and cancellations as the nation’s air traffic controllers begin three days of strikes. The workers are planning intermittent, two-hour strikes throughout Thursday, with a 24-hour strike planned for Friday, meaning that the disruption continues into the weekend.

The planned work stoppages are the latest action taken by air traffic controllers in an ongoing protest against government plans to cut salaries and restructure the sector as part of Portugal’s economic austerity plan.

The strikes will hit the flight plans of many of Europe’s major airlines, including Ireland-based Ryanair, considered to be Europe’s largest no-frills carrier, which has confirmed a number of flight cancellations due to the disruption. The action has caused the airline to call on the European Commission to remove the right to strike from air traffic controllers in Europe, to bring them in line with most of Europe’s police forces and army personnel, and air traffic controllers in the USA.

Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara said, ‘The summer schedules in Europe are just weeks’ old and already the Portuguese air traffic controllers will be engaging in three days of strikes. 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.’

In a statement, the British Foreign Office said, ‘Disruption to flights to and from Portugal on these dates may be experienced as a result. Travellers are advised to contact their travel company or airline for further information.’

Air India Strike One Week On

A strike at Air India, the India-based, state-owned airline company, has now been running for seven days.

The airline continues to face major disruption to the fifty international flights that it schedules each day, as two hundred pilots continue to call in sick in protest at their perceived lack of training privileges. The industrial unrest will affect another thirteen international routes today. To date over fifty international flights have been cancelled, to many of the world’s major cities, including London. The action has lead to many passengers being stranded and Air India has now stopped taking international long-haul flight bookings until May 15.

The dispute is expected to cost the airline USD2m per day, a blow to an organisation that is already struggling financially, and which only recently received a USD6bn bailout package from the Indian government.

The dispute relates to the pilot’s assertion that there is a lack of training privileges for the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, compared to domestic route pilots. The airline has refused to recognise the Indian Pilot’s Guild, which is representing the striking airmen, as they did not give strike notice. This has resulted in a total of seventy-six of the pilots now having been sacked for failing to report for work, and the company’s management declaring the strike illegal and refusing to negotiate with the pilots unless they return to work.

A similar strike took place for ten days last year, and is thought to have cost the company in the region of USD3.3m.

EU commission called to stop ATC strikes

Ryanair calls on EU commission to stop ATC strikes, as thousands of passengers will potentially be affected by French ATC strikes.

Ryanair today called on the EU Commission to prevent millions of Europe’s citizens having their flights cancelled or delayed, by tiny numbers of French Air Traffic Controllers going on strike again this week.
Ryanair condemned the EU Commission’s continuing failure to act on its repeated call for the removal of the right to strike from Europe’s air traffic controllers, who repeatedly blackmail Europe’s passengers with strikes throughout the summer season. Ryanair pointed out that many of Europe’s police forces and army personnel are not allowed to strike.
Air traffic controllers in the USA are also prevented by law from striking, which means that the skies over the US cannot be closed or hijacked by ATC strikes or work to rule. The European Commission should apply similar no strike rules here in Europe.
Ryanair confirmed that yesterday’s French Air Traffic Control strike caused 134 flights to be cancelled, with a further 450 flights delayed, resulting in 88,000 Ryanair passengers having their flights disrupted on Monday through no fault of theirs or Ryanair.
Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara said:
“It is unacceptable that the skies over Europe are repeatedly closed or flights delayed by the unjustified strike action of tiny numbers of air traffic controllers. 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 summer schedules in Europe are barely one week old and already the French Air Traffic Controllers are engaged in three days of strikes. 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
“The EU Commission should stop talking about taking action and finally do something about these repeated and unacceptable strikes by removing the right to strike from ATC unions”.