Ryanair is calling for other air traffic controllers (ATCs) to replace their striking French counterparts.
The budget airline wants ATCs from elsewhere in Europe to manage flights over France during industrial action.
It was among the demands Ryanair made to the European Union in a petition over the impact of strikes so far this year.
French air traffic controllers have joined national strikes over the government’s pension reforms in recent weeks, which include raising the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64. Flights are expected to be disrupted this week as protests continue.
In its petition, Ryanair claims more than one million EU passengers have faced disruption as a result of 14 days of strike by French air traffic controllers since the start of the year. It said there had been more than 8,000 delayed flights and almost 300 cancellations as a result.
Ryanair passengers, call on Ursula Von Der Leyen to protect passenger flights and keep EU skies open during ATC strikes— Ryanair (@Ryanair) March 20, 2023
Ryanair said passengers were being penalised even when they were not flying to or from France.
It said 80% of flights affected were merely flying over the country.
For example, a direct route from London, UK to Malaga, Spain, experienced disruption. This, Ryanair said, is because flights within France are prioritised and protected during ATC strikes, causing the cancellation of others. The company has called for this to change.
The airline has added that on top of the delays, over 1,100 tonnes of fuel have been wasted due to detours having to be taken to avoid flying over French airspace.
Ryanair has also demanded that the EU require unions to “engage in arbitration” rather than strike.
The petition, which is called ‘Protect passengers, keep EU skies open’, calls for signatures from passengers, especially if they have been affected by the strikes.
Its demands to the EU are:
Protect EU overflights under minimum service laws (as they do in Greece and Italy)
Allow Europe’s other air traffic controllers (ATCs) to manage flights over France during ATC strikes
Mandate that French ATC unions engage in arbitration instead of strikes.
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 ATC 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.
‘Free movement threatened’
This is not the first time that Ryanair has complained about French ATC strikes in recent months.
In December, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said passengers were being “completely screwed while a bunch of French air traffic controllers go on strike”.
He said: “It is bizarre that Europe’s free movement of people across Europe in a single market is allowed to be threatened by the French every time they have these recreational strikes, which they have frequently in the summer.”
Xavier Tytelman, from the airline consultancy Aviation NXT, told Le Figaro that the campaign was also a “major free publicity campaign” for Ryanair.
He said: “With this operation, Ryanair is reinforcing its image as a troublemaker or disruptor in the air that listens to its passengers.”