EasyJet’s CEO has hit out at recent air traffic controller (ATC) strikes in France, saying the consequences are “quite unacceptable” and will “have a dampening effect on demand” in the country.
Johan Lundgren said he had written to France’s transport minister and aviation regulator asking for an increase in the “minimum level of service” imposed during strikes.
There has been major disruption to flights amid strikes over France’s controversial pension reforms, which will see the minimum retirement age rise from 62 to 64.
There have been cancellations and delays at French airports, but the air traffic controller strikes mean other flights passing through French airspace have also been affected.
Eurocontrol says 30% of flights in Europe were “potentially impacted” by French industrial action during the first three months of this year.
Mr Lundgren told AFP: “I think it’s quite unacceptable the consequences that this now has. Ten million people have been affected by this.
“The more reputation an industry or a country gets for strikes and not being reliable, that will have a dampening effect on demand, people will just go somewhere else. Why should I go to France if I think I can be exposed to a strike?”
‘Confident’ despite cost of living increase
Mr Lundgren made the comments during an update on the state of the airline sector’s recovery post-Covid and among the rising cost of living, inflation, and factors such as the war in Ukraine.
He said that overall, he felt “confident”, despite the economy. “While there definitely is a cost-of-living crisis across Europe and in many parts of the world, travel and flying has been the thing that people now prioritise even more,” he said.
He said that despite fuel costs having risen by 71%, EasyJet’s average fare has increased by 31%, or an average increase of €14, “so it still is within reach for many customers”.
The Luton-based airline is expected to exceed its profit expectation of £260million this year (€294million), he said.
Ryanair: Disruption in France ‘unacceptable’
Mr Lundgren’s comments come one month after Irish budget airline Ryanair launched a petition to ‘keep EU skies open’ during French strikes, and its CEO made a similar complaint about France.
Ryanair chief executive Eddie Wilson said: “While we respect the right to strike, it is completely unacceptable that Europe’s passenger flights that overfly France are repeatedly delayed or cancelled by French air traffic controller strikes.”
He said there had been “zero action taken by Ursula von der Leyen's European Commission to protect them”.
“It's just not fair that flights to and from France are protected...After all, if the EU won't listen to its airlines, perhaps it'll listen to millions of Europe's passengers instead,” he said.
Ryanair called for other air traffic staff to replace French ATCs during strikes, to prevent disruption, especially to flights that only pass over France, and do not depart or land in the country.