Many French flights set to be cancelled due to air traffic strike

Thursday’s 24-hour protest is expected to be one of the largest walkouts in the profession

Controllers are striking after a ‘u-turn’ in negotiations over changes to their job
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UPDATE April 24: A last-minute deal between unions and the civil aviation authority has seen the strike called off. Read more about it here.

A strike by air traffic controllers this Thursday (April 25) has not been called off, as the airport authorities hoped, making the outlook of hundreds of flight cancellations probable.

Negotiations between unions and France’s civil aviation authority (Direction générale de l'aviation civile, DGAC) regarding changes to their job role have broken down.

Read more: French air traffic controllers’ union files strike notice for April 25

Under a recently introduced law controllers must now give 48 hours’ notice before taking strike action, which means the level of expected disruption should be known later today. 

The DGAC said it would attempt to avert the action and continue negotiations today (April 23). 

As the strike notice has already been made – and the beginning of the action is less than 48 hours away – the number of workers set to walk out should have been reported to the DGAC this morning, even if it has continued to attempt to avert the action.

The DGAC has not yet commented on the expected impact, however, although an announcement will come before Thursday through official channels, including the authority’s X (formerly Twitter) page.

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

However, some airport directors have mentioned to French media sources that cancellations will take place on Thursday.

Early indications are that it will be a significant single-day walkout by staff with the majority of members opting to join the action.

The chairman of the board of Aéroport Marseille-Provence said “at least 50%” of flights to and from the airport will be cancelled on Thursday, during an interview with BFMTV.

Nice airport is set to see a “record walkout” with up to 60% of flights affected, said local media Nice Matin. 

Many French media reports claim that up to 70% of flights nationally may be cancelled. 

International flights that pass through French airspace are also expected to be affected as air traffic controllers manage the path of planes in French territory. 

This was the cause of much chagrin in 2023 when air traffic controllers striking over wider pension reforms in France grounded millions of passengers. 

Read more: French air traffic controllers take too much time off and risk safety

The strike is being called in protest over a ‘u-turn’ in negotiations, said the SNCTA union, the largest representative of air traffic controllers in France. 

It claims that changes were made to previously accepted terms by the DGAC without their knowledge. 

A 15-month long negotiation is underway to overhaul the role of air traffic controllers in France.

Can I be reimbursed if a flight is cancelled by strike action? 

You can request a refund up to seven days after the cancellation of your flight, provided certain conditions are met, such as whether the airline is based in Europe, and from where the flight was set to take off. 

You need to contact the airline to arrange the refund.

Additional compensation may be awarded if you have to stay in the airport a certain amount of time. This includes access to food/drink, communication services, and perhaps accommodation. 

Read more: Travel: How to be reimbursed if affected by strike action in France

Airlines are not responsible, however, for other expenses such as accommodation at your destination, etc, so travel insurance which covers you in this scenario is recommended. 

You can read more about the conditions for requesting a refund on the Service Public website here (available in both French and English).