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TRAVEL NEWS

1,000 flights cancelled: How Friday’s French air traffic controllers’ strike will hit travel in Europe

One thousand flights have been cancelled because of a French air traffic controllers' strike - which affects both flights in and out of France and those that cross over French airspace. Here's a look at the disruption.

1,000 flights cancelled: How Friday's French air traffic controllers' strike will hit travel in Europe
Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP

When?

The SNCTA union, which represents the majority of French air traffic controllers, has called a one-day strike for Friday, September 16th.

Flights on this day will be heavily disrupted, and it’s likely that there will be knock-on effects over the weekend as well.

There are also strikes announced for Wednesday, September 28th, Thursday, September 29th and Friday, September 30th – at this stage we do not know how much disruption these will case, cancellations will be announced nearer the time so check our travel section HERE.

Where?

This affects flights in and out of all French airports (which includes France itself and its overseas territories such as the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe) and potentially affects all flights that pass over French airspace.

Why?

The strike is over pay, and also the longer-term recruitment of air traffic controllers.

READ ALSO 16 French phrases to use on strike days

How much disruption?

A lot. The French aviation authority Direction générale de l’aviation civile (DGAC) has asked airlines to cancel half of all their flights in and out of France on Friday. 

There is no target of cancellation for flights that merely pass through French airspace, but the DGAC has warned that these too can be affected, although it is working with air traffic controllers in neighbouring country to re-route some flights.

The DGAC is recommending that passengers postpone their travel plans on Friday, if at all possible.

In total 1,000 flights have been cancelled. 

Airlines

The 50 percent cancellation applies to all airlines, and anyone whose flight has been cancelled should be notified by email and/or SMS. Anyone who has a flight booked is advised to check directly with their airline, and use the airline app or flight tracker if applicable for the latest updates.

Air France – the French national carrier has tried to keep as many of its long-haul flights as possible, and says that 90 percent of scheduled long-haul flights should go ahead on Friday. In order to do this, however, it has had to severely cut short-haul and medium-length routes – just 45 percent of short/medium flights will go ahead on Friday.

Ryanair – Ryanair has cancelled 420 flights, affecting 80,000 passengers. As well as flights to France, these also include passengers travelling between Spain, Italy, the UK, Ireland and Germany, where flights passed over France.

The company is particularly affected by ‘overflights’ – flights passing over France through French airspace – and is calling on the EU to take tougher action to protect airlines from this type of disruption. 

Easyjet – the UK-based budget airline has cancelled 50 percent of its flights, and advises customers to check the Easyjet flight tracker on their website for the latest information on their flight.

READ ALSO: Your rights if your flight is delayed or cancelled in France

Transavia – the French budget airline has announced 140 flight cancellations for Friday.

Vueling – the Spanish budget airline has cancelled 80 flights to and from France – it has a full list of cancelled flights on its website here.

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For members

STRIKES

France’s pension strikes: What to expect on January 31st

The final day of January marks the second - and almost certainly not the last - day of mass strike action in the ongoing battle between the French government and unions over pension reform. Here's what to expect on January 31st.

France's pension strikes: What to expect on January 31st

Unions have promised the ‘mother of all battles’ against Emmanuel Macron’s plans to reform the French pension system, including raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

5 minutes to understand French pension reform

However, the action for the moment is mostly concentrated into a series of one-day actions, with the first taking place on January 19th.

The next ‘mass mobilisation’ is scheduled for Tuesday, January 31st. It is supported by all eight French trades union federations, which means that support is likely to be high and disruption severe on certain services.

Workers in essential services such as transport must declare their intention to strike 48 hours in advance, allowing transport operators to produce strike timetables, which are usually released 24 hours in advance. We will update this story as new information is released.

Trains

Rail unions are strongly backing the action – on January 19th, 46 percent of all rail workers walked out, and unions say they expect a similar level of support on January 31st. This would likely lead to a similar level of disruption with around half of high-speed TGV trains cancelled and 9 out of 10 of local TER services. 

International services including Eurostar could also see cancellations or a revised timetable. 

City public transport

Workers on Paris’ RATP network also saw high levels of support for the previous strike – with most Metro lines running rush-hour-only services and some closed altogether, while buses ran a severely limited service. The full details of exactly what will be running will be revealed on Monday evening by RATP.

Other cities including Nice, Lyon and Nantes will likely see a repeat of severely disrupted bus, tram and Metro services.

Schools

The major teaching unions have called for another 24-hour walkout, so some schools are likely to close. The January 19th action saw roughly half of teachers across France walk out.

Ski lifts

The two unions that represent more than 90 percent of workers in ski resorts have called an ‘unlimited’ strike beginning on January 31st. So far Tuesday is the only confirmed strike day, but others could be announced. Strikes in ski resorts generally mainly affect the operation of ski lifts.

Petrol stations

The hardline CGT union has announced extra strike dates for workers at oil refineries, and also threatened blockades. This can result in shortages at petrol stations as supplies of petrol and diesel are blocked from leaving the refineries and reaching filling stations.

Power cuts 

CGT members working in the state electricity sector have also threatened more ‘direct action’ including power cuts to selected towns. This is not a legitimate strike tactic – in fact France’s labour minister says it is “a criminal offence” and will be punished accordingly – but it could happen nevertheless.

On January 19th two towns – one in the greater Paris region and one in northern France – lost power for a couple of hours in what was described as a deliberate cut. The union says it intends to target towns that elected MPs who support the pension reform.

Demos

January 31st will also see another day of marches and demonstrations in towns and cities around France. On January 19th more than 1 million people took to the streets and unions will be hoping for a similar turnout on January 31st. One striking feature of the demos on January 19th was the comparatively large turnout in smaller French towns that usually do not see large demos.

Other strike dates

The above information relates to January 31st only, and services before and after this date are expected to run as normal.

Some unions, however, have declared ‘unlimited’ strikes, so there could be disruptions on these services on other days – these include ski lift operators, truck drivers and oil refinery workers.

It is highly likely that further one-day or multi-day strikes will be announced for February and March, as the pension reform bill comes before parliament, you can keep up to date with out strike calendar HERE.

We will update this article as more information becomes available, and you can also keep up with the latest in our strike section HERE.

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