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Hundreds of Flights in France Canceled as Air Traffic Control Workers Strike

Date: September 16, 2022

By Jenny Gross

Sept. 16, 2022

Airlines canceled flights across France on Friday as air traffic controllers went on a one-day strike to demand higher wages.

The lack of pay increases for workers was “unjustifiable,” the air traffic control union, SNCTA, said in a statement. The union said the strike action came after months of negotiations over wages and recruitment plans stalled, and added that rising inflation was one reason for the strike. Another strike, lasting for three days, would take place starting Sept. 28, SNCTA said.

More than 400 flights departing from or arriving to Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly airports had been canceled, and about 200 had been delayed, by midday on Friday, according to FlightAware, which provides flight tracking data. Hundreds of flights to and from Lyon, Nice, Marseille, Bordeaux and Toulouse had also been canceled or delayed.

Ryanair said in a statement on Thursday that the strike had caused it to cancel 420 flights on Friday, a move that would affect 80,000 passengers. Neal McMahon, the airline’s operations director, called on the European Union to take steps to prevent strikes from disrupting the plans of travelers, noting that flights departing from countries outside of France with routes in French airspace had also been disrupted.

“It is time that the E.U. step in and protect overflights so that European passengers are not repeatedly held to ransom by a tiny French ATC union,” Mr. McMahon said, using an acronym to refer to air traffic controllers.

Over recent months, as energy prices surge and the cost of living increases, strikes have become more frequent, with airport and other transport workers demanding better wages and working conditions. In the United States, a railroad strike was averted after freight rail companies and unions on Thursday reached a tentative agreement. The deal will now head to union members, who had argued for better pay and more flexible schedules, for a ratification vote.

In Europe, strikes over the summer have disrupted travel plans, just as the end of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge in demand for air travel. In late July, Lufthansa Airlines canceled virtually all its flights in and out of Frankfurt and Munich over a 48-hour period after around 3,000 employees staged a strike for better wages. The strike left more than 130,000 travelers without flights.

Companies have also had to contend with labor shortages, after having laid off baggage handlers and ground crews when air travel was grounded because of the pandemic. Job vacancies among airport staff have led to long lines at airports and have caused flight cancellations, delays and frustration.

France has had one of the lowest rates of inflation in the eurozone, but at 6.6 percent in August, the country’s annual pace of inflation has roughly doubled since the start of the year. The government this week said it would cap energy price increases at 15 percent starting early next year, though prices for power, like almost everything else, will still be higher than they are currently.

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