Last Sunday, Airlines for Europe (A4E) warned that around 1,000 flights might be cancelled as a result of French ATC strikes during week 10. The airline association now reports that the strikes caused a record-breaking 1,500 flight cancellations and more than 320,000 minutes (or 5,300 hours) of flight delays.

Strike action at air traffic control centres in Brest, Bordeaux and Marseille forced airlines to reduce capacity in France by 25% and also affected flights destined for Italy, Spain and Switzerland which might have to over-fly French airspace.

The association has asked European States to take more definitive action to avoid disruptive strikes. Among their proposed solutions would be a compulsory minimum of 72 hours notification of participation in a strike, to be implemented “where possible and practical”, as well as greater flexibility on ATC re-routing to other control centres outside the country which would cover the outage and allow uninterrupted flights throughout Europe.

“It is devastating to see that more than a million passengers suffered from this year’s first ATC strike.  We cannot wait anymore – European and French policy-makers need to implement measures capable of minimising Air Traffic Management disruption’s impact on travellers. Political, operational and technological solutions exist for a problem that affects the whole continent. These solutions would limit the impact of such strikes on travellers and business, without questioning controllers’ fundamental right to strike,” said Thomas Reynaert, Managing Director of A4E.

The association reports that, during the 2010-16 period, there were 217 ATC strike days in the EU; equivalent to one disrupted air travel day every nine days. A4E estimates that ATC strikes have cost the EU economy €12 billion since 2010.

A4E also warns travellers of potential ATC strike on March 20, this time in Italy.

“Travellers can unite and let out their frustration about the continuous travel disruptions supporting our petition ‘Keep Europe’s Skies open’. We will present this petition in Brussels to urge the EU Commission and the EU Parliament to finally take action. Holidays and the Summer break are ahead of us as possibly the next strikes,” concluded Reynaert.

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