A sigh of relief resonated through thousands of rugby fans and countless passengers when news broke out that the French air traffic control (ATC) workers had called off their imminent strike. Yet, Airlines for Europe (A4E) argues it’s crucial to remember that this would have been the 38th strike day by French ATC, surpassing the total combined number of strike days witnessed across the rest of Europe.
A Momentary Reprieve or a Pattern Shift?
The decision to enter negotiation rooms instead of forming picket lines is a welcome change. However, the European airline association A4E emphasizes a larger concern: this respite may only be temporary unless solid measures are established to address the root causes of these frequent ATC strikes in Europe.
Throughout the year, ATC strikes have been a significant source of disruption. The stats are alarming:
- Over 4,000 canceled flights,
- 1 million minutes of flight delays
- Hundreds of thousands of passengers’ journeys were disrupted.
Ourania Georgoutsakou, Managing Director of A4E, said: “Airlines and passengers are breathing a collective sigh of relief with the postponement of the latest ATC strike in France. Not only would this have created chaos for thousands of rugby fans during its global showpiece, but it would also have led to disruption across Europe.”
She added, “While we commend French ATC workers for entering negotiations rather than the picket lines, the EU and national governments need to ensure this is not an exception but the norm when it comes to ATC strikes in Europe. A4E has set out measures to do so, and these should be implemented without delay.”
A4E’s Call for Concrete Actions on ATC Strikes
A4E respects the right to strike, but the disruption experienced this year has propelled the association to present a series of proposed actions. The goal? Ensure European passengers retain their right to fly unhampered. So, strikes, when they occur, don’t wreak havoc on departures and arrivals.
In a bid to balance passengers’ right to travel and workers’ right to strike, A4E proposes:
- Enforcing mandatory arbitration before ATC unions can even hint at strike actions.
- Instituting a 21-day advance notification of strike action.
- Making it obligatory to provide a 72-hour advance individual notification of intent to participate in industrial action.
- Safeguarding overflights while ensuring no compromise on departures and arrivals in the strike-originating country.
- Establishing a right of redress with ANSPs to address the impact of the disruptions.
The recent ATC strike postponement in France is a testament that proactive measures, like advance strike notifications and mandatory arbitration, can potentially usher in a positive change for passengers. A4E believes the call of the hour is clear: it’s time for swift, actionable solutions over temporary relief.