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Airports shut as strike grows

Aviation authority orders more cancellations as nearly 100% of air traffic controllers join protest

AIR travellers face major new disruption today as air traffic controllers stepped up their strike action unexpectedly – with several airports closing.

Travellers were already facing severe disruption over the next three days as air and rail strikes combined to prevent many short and long-distance journeys.

However, air passengers face turning up at the airport and finding their flight cancelled with no notice. Now government officials at the aviation authority DGAC have called a crisis meeting to find how best to cope with the situation.

When the air strike started yesterday the DGAC ordered airlines at major airports to cancel 50% of flights. That meant around 1,800 flights in France – around one in four flights – were cancelled with passengers getting advance warning by text or email from their airline.

Today, the DGAC was expecting another 1,800 cancellations as controllers were bound by law to state whether or not they were striking. However, many had ignored this.

The strike is now said to be almost 100%, with other workers joining in, plus controllers from other European countries in what is a Europe-wide protest. DGAC has called on airlines to cancel another 25% of flights at Paris Charles-de-Gaulle, Paris Orly, Beauvais, Lyon, Nice, Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux.

DGAC has declared that it will operate a “minimum service” and newspaper Le Parisien has reported that air controllers have been requisitioned to work at Paris Charles-de-Gaulle, Paris Orly, Nice, Marseille, Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Toulouse. The air traffic control centres at Aix-en-Provence, Athis-Mons, Bordeaux, Brest and Reims are also on minimum service – with major knock-on delays for services passing through or near French airspace.

Airports at Agen, Angoulême, Figari, Montpellier and Perpignan have been closed.

Previously the controllers had said they would call off tomorrow’s planned continuation of their strike but it is not clear if this will now happen

Until the latest developments, leading UK airlines had reported the following changes:

Ryanair said it cancelled 203 flights yesterday and another 244 today. It was not just flights to and from France that were hit, but also those crossing French airspace. Among airports affected are: Bergerac, Beziers, Bordeaux, Brest, Carcassonne, Dinard, La Rochelle, Lille, Limoges, Marseille, Montpellier, Nantes, Nimes, Paris Beauvais, Perpignan, Poitiers, St Etienne and Toulon.

Easyjet said it cancelled 128 flights yesterday and the same today with the following airports being affected: Bordeaux: six flights; Lyon: 19 flights; Paris Orly: 28 flights; Paris Charles-de-Gaulle: 40 flights; Toulouse: 22 flights; Nice: 34 flights.

British Airways said some services from the following airports will be affected: Paris Orly and Charles-de-Gaulle, Nice, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux and Lyon.

On the railways, just two out of five trains will be running on TGV and TER lines – with the action due to start from 19.00 this evening, but starting to affect trains in the south-east from midday. The rail disruption is due to continue until 8.00 on Friday morning.

On the trains, SNCF said that only one in three trains will be running to the south-east and routes away from Paris. Elsewhere, it expects four out of 10 to run on TGV Nord and two out of three on Atlantique and East routes.

Local TER trains will be running at four out of 10 and the Intercités service will be at three out of 10.

In Ile-de-France, the RER service will be hit on lines B and D with one train in three and direct connections at Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon will be disrupted. On lines C and E 50% of trains will run and on RER A the service will be “close to normal”.

Traffic will be normal on Eurostar services to London, Thalys to Brussels and Amsterdam and the Alléo train to Germany. Services towards Switzerland and Italy will, however, be affected.

The air controllers’ strike is over plans to open up Europe’s skies and bring in coordinated air control services. The rail workers are protesting against government plans for the future of the industry and feared job cuts.
Photo: fred goldstein -

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