[Article updated September 14 at 15:20 with further details on the action to be taken by Air France.]
People planning to take a flight from a France airport on Friday (September 16) should be aware that one in two flights are to be cancelled due to an air traffic control strike.
The Direction générale de l’Aviation civile (DGAC) has asked airlines operating in metropolitan France and in overseas departments to cut their flight schedules in half to reduce disruption.
“Cancellations and significant delays are to be expected,” the DGAC has said, adding, however, that reducing the day’s flight schedule should “limit traffic disruption”.
The cancellations will affect airports across France, and will run from 06:00 on Friday until 06:00 on Saturday (September 17).
Union calls for pay rises and recruitment drive
They are the result of a strike notice issued by the Syndicat national des contrôleurs du trafic aérien (SNCTA), which has been calling for pay rises for the last few months, in view of France’s high inflation rate.
The union has also said in a statement that: “Between 2029 and 2035, one third of the [air traffic control] workforce is retiring. 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.”
SNCTA has said that: “No response [has been] offered by the DGAC or public authorities,” which has pushed the union to initiate strike action.
If an agreement is not reached after Friday, a second strike is planned for September 28-30 inclusive.
Potential repercussions across Europe
The DGAC has called on passengers to “delay your journey if possible and to get in touch with your airline.”
It added that the disruption in France could have a knock-on effect on air traffic across Europe, and that it is working “with the leader of the Eurocontrol network to suggest ways in which airlines can avoid French air space.”
Air France has cancelled 55% of its short and medium-haul flights, and 10% of its long-haul services, saying in a statement that "last-minute cancellations should not be ruled out".
The airline has said that it will inform every affected passenger individually, adding that: “The company regrets this action, which will have significant consequences for customers.”
In general, if your flight is cancelled, airlines should inform you of the change and either offer you a seat on another flight – if practicable – or refund your ticket.
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.