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French air traffic control strike: 1000 flights, all airports affected

We look at flight cancellation numbers from different airlines. Air traffic controllers are calling for pay increases and a recruitment drive

Over 1,000 flight’s have been cancelled and others delayed today in France because of an air traffic control strike Pic: Vietnam Stock Images / Shutterstock

More than 1,000 flights have been cancelled in France today (September 16) as the result of an air traffic control strike which will last until 06:00 tomorrow. 

Aviation authority the Direction générale de l’aviation civile (DGAC) asked airlines to cut their schedules in half to help manage the effects of the strike, but still warned of “severe” disruption and encouraged passengers to postpone their trips if possible. 

Read more: Strike action to ground one in every two flights in France on Friday

The Syndicat national des contrôleurs du trafic aérien (SNCTA) air traffic control union has also called three additional strike days on Wednesday, September 28, Thursday, September 29 and Friday, September 30. 

Read more: French air traffic controllers announce three more strike days

However, these may be called off if an agreement is reached.

Which airlines have cancelled flights? 

Air France has cancelled 55% of its short and medium-haul flights today, along with 10% of its long-haul services. 

Ryanair, for its part, has cancelled 420 flights, and criticised an “unjustified” strike affecting 80,000 passengers in France and across Europe.

Low-cost airline Transavia grounded 140 flights, and EasyJet said it had cancelled “hundreds”.

Airlines have said that affected passengers have been notified individually. 

If your flight is cancelled as a result of this strike, you will generally be entitled to a full refund or a seat on another flight if practicable. 

Because the strike is being carried out by airport and not airline staff, the delays and cancellations are technically out of the airline’s control and so you would not normally be entitled to compensation. 

The DGAC has said that it is working with Eurocontrol to minimise disruption to flights which should be passing over French airspace, suggesting ways of avoiding the country. 

What is the strike about? 

SNCTA is calling for an employee pay rise, considering France’s high inflation rate, as well as the recruitment of new air traffic controllers. 

In a statement, it said: “Between 2029 and 2035, one third of the [air traffic control] workforce is retiring.” This equates to 1,200 controllers.

“It is imperative that we anticipate and plan recruitment.

“If not, the consequences will be inevitable in terms of the public service, working conditions and flexibility.” 

The union added that a lack of forward planning in terms of recruitment will mean a “considerable decline in the level of public service provided.” 

How is the strike affecting different airports? 

All of France’s airports are being impacted by the strike. 

In Nice, for example, half of flights are cancelled and many others are delayed. The airport is advising passengers to check for information on its website or app, where all the cancellations are detailed.

“In addition, the flights which aren’t cancelled risk being delayed because of the disorganisation caused by the strike,” it said.

Marseille-Provence has announced that 55 flights have been cancelled – 38% of those scheduled – and Marignane has had to ground 140, or 40% of those programmed. 

The situation may continue to evolve as the day wears on.

The airport has said that long-haul flights should not be as badly affected, but that passengers should check their reservation with the airline if they are unsure.

Some 12 flights heading for Lille have been cancelled, as well as 12 leaving Lille. 

Bordeaux Airport is also telling passengers to check with their airline about the status of their flight, and Montpellier has all the cancelled flights displayed on its website. 

Paris-Orly and Charles de Gaulle have warned of “many” cancellations and delays.

Strike is ‘regrettable’ says airport union

“It always falls at a bad time; it is regrettable because we are just building up our traffic again” after Covid, Thomas Juin, president of the Union des aéroports français and director of La Rochelle airport told Franceinfo.

He added that the demands of air traffic controllers are “completely understandable considering the evolution of buying power and inflation,” but that “it is never the solution to interrupt traffic.

“It is really important that activity can get back to normal.”

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