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Hundreds of flights cancelled in French air traffic controller strike

Destinations in the south are particularly impacted

At Toulouse-Blagnac airport around 40 flights have been cancelled due to air traffic control strikes Pic: Stephen M Brooks/Shutterstock

Destinations in the south of France are particularly impacted by a one-day strike by air traffic controllers this Monday (November 20).

Airports including Paris-Orly, Nice, Montpellier, Toulouse, Marseille, Bordeaux and Lyon say  members of their staff are taking part in the action. 

The protest by air traffic controllers comes in response to a law passed on November 15 that seeks to restrict their ability to strike.

The action is led by three air traffic control unions; UNSA-ICNA, the USAC-CGT and the CFDT. The National Union of Air Traffic Controllers, the largest union in the sector, has not called for a strike. 

Meanwhile, the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) said on Sunday that "at this stage, the protest will only take place on Monday".

Cancellations are widespread

At Toulouse-Blagnac airport around 40 flights have been cancelled after the DGAC advised that 25% of flights should be cancelled. 

Flight schedules will also be reduced by 25% from Paris-Orly and by 20% from Bordeaux and Marseille. 

[Update 16:00 on November 20: At Marignane airport, more than one in five flights is cancelled, while all flights have been diverted until 20:00 at Pau-Pyrénées airport.]

Ten flights at Caen-Carpiquet airport have been cancelled due to the action, the airport's management said on X (formerly Twitter).

[Update 16:00 on November 20: Other larger facilities have experienced significant delays in departures and arrivals, according to the DGAC.

After peaking at more than an hour and a half in the late morning at some airports, delays to take-off times averaged 58 minutes at Lille-Lesquin, 46 minutes at Montpellier and 37 minutes at Paris-Orly by mid-afternoon.]

Airports such as Lyon and Montpellier are advising customers to contact their airline directly for more information.

Need to declare strikes in advance 

France’s parliament passed a vote on November 15 to limit the rights of air traffic controllers in the country to take strike action. 

The bill obliges controllers to declare whether they intend to join a strike 48 hours in advance of the start of any collective action. 

Read more: French MPs move to stop last-minute air traffic controller strikes

The motion passed by 85 votes to 30 in the National Assembly, with Transport Minister Clément Beaune saying it would help put an end to the “asymmetric system" that causes serious "public service disorganisation.” 

However, some left-wing MPs criticised the bill, with Green MP Lisa Belluco calling the law “a threat to the right to strike.” 

The current strike by air traffic controllers was called in response to the law being passed.

Flights across French airspace cancelled 

The en route air navigation centres (CRNA), which control the routes of aircraft flying over the country, are also likely to be affected, potentially forcing flights to bypass France.

The Irish airline Ryanair has called on the European Commission "to take urgent measures to protect overflights and the freedom of movement of EU citizens during the strike.”

Given France's geographical position, the multiple strikes by French air traffic controllers since the beginning of the year have forced "airlines to cancel thousands of EU overflights from Germany, Spain, Italy, Ireland and the United Kingdom, while France in particular uses minimum service laws to protect French flights", Ryanair said in a statement on November 19.

"It's unfair. France (and all other EU states) should protect overflights during air traffic controllers' strikes as is the case in Spain, Italy and Greece, and cancel flights to/from the affected state," adds the Irish low-cost carrier.

Read also 

Best time to buy ferry and plane tickets : 7 French travel updates

Regional French airports under threat as auditors question value

French unions threaten Christmas and New Year rail strike

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