Ryanair cancels 420 flights ahead of French air-traffic control strike

More than 1,000 flights have been cancelled because of a 24-hour strike by French air-traffic controllers.

Members of the Syndicat National des Contr?leurs du Trafic A?rien (SNCTA) will walk out from 6am Friday 16 September to 6am on Saturday 17 September. They say their pay has been eroded by inflation.

Europe’s biggest budget airline, Ryanair, has cancelled 420 flights and says 80,000 passengers are affected – many of them on routes that neither land in, nor take off from, France. Many departures from UK airports to Spain, Portugal, Italy and Switzerland normally traverse French airspace.

The carrier is calling on the European Union to mandate overflights when controllers strike.

In a statement, Ryanair says: “It is inexplicable that thousands of European citizens/visitors will have their travel plans unfairly disrupted by yet another French ATC [air-traffic control] strike and that flights which overfly France are disrupted by French ATC strikes yet domestic French flights are protected by minimum service laws.

“Ryanair is once again calling for immediate EU action to prevent these French ATC strikes disrupting the travel plans of thousands of European citizens/visitors.”

The airline says the affected customers have been contacted and advised of their options. Under European air passengers’ rights rules, travellers are entitled to be flown as soon as possible on any available flight.

But with dozens of other airlines affected, alternative departures are thin on the ground. British Airways has axed flights from London Heathrow to Paris, Toulouse and Nice, as well as to Zurich, Barcelona and Madrid.

Many easyJet flights are cancelled: more than half of the airline’s normal services cross French territory.

The French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) has ordered airlines to halve their flight schedules to and from airports in France.

Yet Air France, the national carrier, still plans to operate 90 per cent of its long-haul flights plus 45 per cent of its short and medium-haul flights – representing almost 60 per cent of total operations.

The French airline says: “Delays and last minute cancellations cannot be ruled out.”

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