Today’s strike by French air traffic controllers (ATCs) is causing chaos to passengers flying to and from France and delays to all flights crossing French airspace, with inevitable knock-on effects across Europe. The SNCTA, France’s biggest air traffic controllers’ union, called for members to walk out on 8 and 9 April and is planning a possible further seven days of action before 2 May, causing further disruption to one of the busiest airspaces in Europe.
The strikers are protesting against the restructuring plans that, they say, threaten the air navigation service in France. However, Simon McNamara, director general of the European Regions Airline Association (ERA), says: “While the strikes won’t delay progress on the much needed reforms associated with delivering a single European sky, they will cause misery to passengers and, once again, airlines (rather than the unions) will be forced to pick up the associated costs under EU261* when providing care and assistance to passengers, despite the fact that the circumstances are beyond their control.
“This action, during one of the busiest passenger traffic weeks of the year, is completely unjustified and unreasonable. Europe’s airlines and passengers continue to suffer at the hands of ATC unions who are reluctant to recognise the opportunities for Europe that the modernisation of its air traffic management system presents,” adds McNamara.
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*Under EU Regulation 261/2004 (EU261) airlines have a duty of care and assistance to passengers whose flights are cancelled or heavily delayed, even if the reason for the delay or cancellation is beyond the control of the airline such as an air traffic control strike.
ERA Head Office, UK, 8 April, 2015