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Passengers will face new delays and cancellations during new ATC strike in France

Last week’s strike resulted in 300 flight cancellations and 130,000 minutes of delay. Proactive flight cancellations necessary to reduce passengers’ inconvenience and to avoid airport congestion.

Last week, 300 flights did not operate as a result of the industrial action, according to figures from Eurocontrol’s Network Manager. In addition, 130,000 minutes of delay accumulated on 3,000 flights across Europe. Now, another ATC strike looms and European passengers could face new delays forcing airlines to reduce flights to and over France.

“This is the second strike in a week and the uncertainty about the impact, and escalating delays throughout a strike day, force airlines to cut back on their flight programme. Airlines cannot wait hoping that air traffic controllers will turn up at their control centres – our members need to protect the integrity of their flight schedules to avoid knock-on delays and cancellations that impact on customers,” said Thomas Reynaert, Managing Director of A4E.

Unfortunately, cancellations are necessary to save flight programmes which are often made entirely of flights dependant on French air navigation services, given France’s geographical location. Delays can lead to crew exceeding their flight time limitations and aircraft being unable to return to their home base.

During the French industrial action on 12 September 2017, there was no confirmation on the expected level of impact and heavy restrictions were applied during the day.

With two-thirds of all European ATC strike days taking place in France, A4E calls on the French government to consider measures to improve the predictability of the strikes’ impact and decrease their damage to the French and European economy.

In June, the European Commission published its Communication “Aviation: an Open and Connected Europe” in an effort to enhance airspace efficiency and connectivity. The Commission rightly encourages Member States and stakeholders, including social partners, to take action to improve service continuity in air traffic management. Political, operational and technological solutions exist for a problem that affects the whole continent. Limiting the impact of Air Traffic Management strikes on travellers and business, without questioning controllers’ fundamental right to strike, is a key objective of A4E.

The solutions A4E has called for include a compulsory minimum of 72 hours’ notice of participation in a strike and a way to manage airspace effectively so that overflights can continue regardless of localised action, and an upper airspace evolution away from geographical dependency  enabling European passengers to make uninterrupted journeys throughout the continent.  

Between 2010-16, there were 217 ATC strike days in the EU – one disrupted day every nine days. In total, there were 278 disrupted days if you take into account the days before and after an ATC strike as flights had to be cancelled in advance and accumulated delays spilt over to the next day. Since 2010 the overall impact of ATC strikes has cost 12 billion euros to the EU economy, associated with more than 140,000 jobs.

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