Travel misery as Ryanair cancels flights due to French ATC strike
“More disruption and travel misery is inflicted upon Europe’s consumers and airlines,” Ryanair said in an official statement, as more than 20,000 of the airline’s passengers have had their flights cancelled on Tuesday, September 12, due to the latest strike by French air-traffic controllers (ATC). EasyJet, Ryanair and British Airways have called off more than 100 flights between them. Many other flights to and from France as well as those overflying the country have also been affected by the class action taken by members of the USAC-CGT (Union Syndicale de l'Aviation Civile – CGT) union.
On September 12, USAC-CGT members began a five-day strike as part of a nationwide action against President Macron's new labor reforms. The union claims the proposed law “promises to be dangerous for employees and their representatives”, The Independent reports. The union’s members believe that the new labor laws will offer fewer rights for the employees and more powers for the employers. “The government has proposed us in line with its predecessors an umpteenth labor law reform that will be added to the previous ones without even having evaluated them and this is the reason for their ineffectiveness” says the USAC-CGT. The union has published its manifesto urging the dismantling of the Labor law and calling for the participation in manifestations on September 12.
On September 12, Ryanair cancelled at least 110 flights, and it fears further flight delays and cancellations. Passengers that were supposed to fly from the airline’s main UK base, Stansted, to Barcelona, Bergerac, Blagnac, Bordeaux, Limoges, Madrid, Marseille, Palma and Perpignan, or on the return stretch, are now looking for alternative services. Other affected routes are Luton-Nimes, Manchester-Ibiza, Leeds/Bradford-Palma and East Midlands-Barcelona, The Independent reports. The European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation or Eurocontrol is also cautioning of "very high delays" in the Marseille area, reaching across southern France. Meanwhile, Air France is warning passengers of "limited disruptions" on domestic flights, and that "last-minute delays and cancellations can be expected too".
British Airways has already cancelled 16 flights: four services linking London with Barcelona and with Nice have been grounded, along with round-trips from Heathrow to Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse and Zurich. The airline is now offering passengers flying on any French route, as well as Barcelona, the option of shifting the flight to Wednesday or Thursday. The airline warns that other short-haul flights may also experience some disruption, since so many flights from numerous European airlines normally use French airspace every day.
Ryanair’s rival, EasyJet, says that their flights to and from French airports, as well as those flying in French airspace, could also be affected. “We are doing everything possible to minimize the impact of the strike on our customers, and we advise that you allow plenty of extra time to get to the airport and consider alternative transport options where possible, as public transport services may be affected by the strike”, the airline told The Independent. The UK’s Foreign Office has already warned of the possibility of disruption and delays to transport services, including rail networks and some maritime ports. EasyJet has cancelled 38 flights today.
According to The Daily Mail, the lobby group A4E predicts that more than 1,000 flights will be cancelled this week as carriers have been asked to slash their services by a quarter. Lobby group Airlines for Europe told the paper that 2016 was a record year for air traffic controller strikes, with 41 days affected. This amounts to more than 35,000 flights cancelled due to strikes since 2010. The group has called for the European Commission and governments to take action to reduce the impact of ATC strikes. It insists on neighboring countries to be allowed to carry out ATC in airspace affected by industrial disputes.
On its official website Ryanair apologized to its passengers for any inconvenience caused by what it calls “unjustified” ATC disruptions. The airline says customers will be updated on their flight status via email and/or the mobile phone number provided at time of booking. They are also asking passengers to monitor this notice which will be updated throughout the day as well as their flight status online.
Ryanair is currently offering those who wish to cancel their reservation to apply for a full refund of the unused flight(s) or to change their cancelled flight for free (subject to seat availability) by retrieving the booking online. Refunds will be processed within 7 working days back to the form of payment used for the original booking, the airline says. Those who require rerouting options, departing/arriving from another airport served by Ryanair or changing an unaffected return flight should contact one of the airline’s advisors online or by calling its customer service.