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Air controllers set to strike

Hundreds of flights are expected to be cancelled at Paris airports tomorrow

AIR passengers are braced for major delays tomorrow as French air traffic controllers join colleagues across Europe in a walkout over plans for a « Single European Sky ».

Aviation officials have asked airlines operating out of Roissy, Orly and Beauvais to reduce the number of flights by 20% tomorrow. It is estimated that about 200 flights scheduled to take off from Orly alone will be cancelled.

The strike is expected to cause delays and cancellations across France and passengers due to fly tomorrow are advised to contact their airline.

Unions are protesting against the so-called SES2+ plan, which is intended to tighten an earlier scheme to change air traffic control from a national to an EU level to improve efficiency, cut costs and reduce emissions. It would get rid of the present system of 27 country air traffic control blocks and replace it with nine « Functional Airspace Blocks ».

They argue that ATC workers and safety have been forgotten in a market-driven approach to cut costs that would impact on both safety and jobs.

European unions ETF and ATCEUC say the plan risks “a new fragmentation of the European sky” by unbundling support services. The ETF’s François Ballestero told website Air Traffic Management thast “staff are already suffering from a performance scheme dominated by a continuing cost reduction and in which safety is not considered to be the first priority”.

The calls to cut costs have been backed by airlines, who say that European ATC costs are twice those in the US. EU officials want to cut costs by 4.6% per year between 2015 and 2019.

The strike has been timed to coincide with a European Parliament transport committee vote on the plan.

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