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French Air Traffic Control (ATC) Strike Begins Tonight; More than 800 Flights Across Europe Cancelled and 100,000 Passengers Affected

  • €13.4 billionEconomic Impact of Air Traffic Control Strikes in Europe, PriceWaterhouseCooper for A4E, Brussels, 2016 economic impact of ATC strikes in Europe continues to grow.
  • A4E urges the EU to take immediate action to protect consumers.
  • Travellers can sign online petition to demand action:

Europe’s largest airlines were forced to pre-emptively cancel more than 800 flights ahead of a planned strike by French air traffic controllers set to begin at 18:00 today and last until 05:00 on March 23rd. The French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) requested airlines adjust their flight schedules in France by 30%, but services flying over French airspace (overflights) will also be affected. Heavy delays and further last-minute cancellations are to be expected.

According to a recent study, the economic cost of ATC strikes in the EU between 2010–2017 was estimated at €13.4 billion.Economic Impact of Air Traffic Control Strikes in Europe, PriceWaterhouseCooper for A4E, Brussels, 2016 Last summer, the European Commission released figures further revealing the magnitude of the problem: Since 2005, the EU has been home to some 357 air traffic control strikes. That’s the equivalent of roughly one month of strike days per year.

“With two-thirds of all European ATC strike days taking place in France, the European economy, its tourism and trade sectors pay a very high price — namely, EUR 1.4 billion per year and obviously the French airlines face the highest impact. Few — if any, national governments elsewhere in the world have experienced this level of repeated industrial action against the air transport system like we have in the EU”, said Thomas Reynaert, Managing Director, A4E.

Besides cancellations, ATC strikes play a major role in delays and detours for both airlines and their passengers:

  • Flights depart with significant delays due to disrupted slot times.
  • These detours result in longer flight times and higher fuel burn.
  • Flights might have to enter holding patterns before arriving at their destination due to limited airport capacity during peak times.

“We urge the EU to take immediate action to protect consumers. Without questioning controllers’ fundamental right to strike, we need to find political, operational and technological solutions to limit the impact such strikes continue to have on travellers and business. We call on French policymakers to improve the situation”, Reynaert added.

Solutions proposed by A4E include a mandatory 72-hour notification period for employees wishing to strike, protection of overflights (while not at the expense of the country where the strike originates), and an improved continuity of service for passengers.

Consumers can also demand swifter action by EU politicians by signing A4E’s online petition: The petition will be presented to the relevant authorities in Brussels and EU capitals by the end of 2018.