Air controller strike lifted but airline action affects French flights

Stewards at Vueling will walk out during bank holiday weekend

French workers at the low-cost Spanish airline are on strike this weekend

A strike notice from air traffic control unions that could have severely impacted travel this weekend has been lifted - however protest action by two airlines is set to disrupt some flights.

The air traffic controllers’ notice originally applied to staff at all French airports and was scheduled for between May 9 and 11. It would have affected the second bank holiday of the week (Ascension on Thursday May 9) and people travelling home from a long weekend.

Arrangements between the unions and France’s civil aviation authority (Direction générale de l'aviation civile – DGAC), though, means the action has been cancelled.

However, a walkout of French staff at Vueling – a major low-cost Spanish airline – will see many flights to and from France cancelled between May 8 and 12.

French unions, most notably the CGT and FO, are backing the strike, which is over poor working conditions. 

Notable issues include some stewards being “forced” to work on flights when they should not be allowed to, a lack of adequate rest between shifts for hosts and hostesses, and the employing of some French staff on non-French contracts.

Vueling’s main French base is at Paris Orly, where flights are most likely to be affected, however they also serve Charles-de-Gaulle and six other French airports. You should check with the airline to see if your flight will be impacted.

A strike by workers at Air Austral, which flies between France and Réunion, is also set to take place between May 10 and 15.

Read more: BA flight sale and UK-France ferry offers: Seven French travel updates

Negotiations between controllers and unions reopen

Last-minute agreements between the leading union for air traffic controllers – the SNCTA – and France’s civil aviation authority previously saw strike action on April 25 averted. 

It did not, however, prevent hundreds of flights being cancelled, with the lifting of the strike notice coming too late to reschedule flights that had already been cancelled.

Although the details of the agreement are not fully known, it revolved around negotiations over changes to the job role of air traffic controllers in France. 

It also included the strike notice for May 9 - 11 being lifted as part of the deal.

These negotiations had been ongoing for 15 months before breaking down in April 2024.

Unions alleged that the DGAC had published parts of a deal they had not agreed to without informing them, leading to a ‘lack of trust’.

The negotiations have now been re-opened and it is hoped a final agreement will be signed in the coming months. 

In return for a higher workload and more responsibilities in managing air traffic flow, unions are calling for salary increases and a recruitment drive for the profession.

Air traffic unions previously committed to an ‘Olympic Truce’, promising no strike notices would be filed between June and September so as to not hinder this summer’s Games in Paris. 

Other groups – including rail workers and binmen – however are threatening action and have filed strike notices covering the duration of the Games.

Read more: Why tens of thousands of people in France protested on May 1