Air passengers face summer of discontent warns Europe’s biggest airline


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The Independent Online

With thousands of British travellers still stranded after this week’s French airspace shut-down, and further airport strikes causing disruption today, Europe’s biggest airline has warned that passengers face a summer of discontent.

Ryanair said that 90,000 of its passengers had been affected by the French air-traffic controllers’ stoppage, and described it as the most disruptive event since the volcanic ash cloud in 2010.

The controllers’ union, the USAC-CGT, described the strike as “an unprecedented success”. The union claimed more than half the flights to, from and within France had been axed. Many more departures that were due to overfly France were also cancelled, including dozens of flights between Britain and Spain.

Ryanair is laying on extra flights from Malaga and Palma to Stansted today to try to clear the backlog. Robin Kiely, the airline’s head of communications, said: “These air-traffic controllers deliberately initiated industrial action at the busiest time of the year in order to cause maximum chaos, targeting Europe’s holidaymakers.

“The danger remains that air traffic controllers, both in France and elsewhere, could stage further strikes, especially given the ‘success’ of their selfish and unwarranted strike action.” Ryanair has called on the EU to remove the air traffic controllers’ right to strike.

The French stoppage, in protest against cost-cutting measures and Europe’s “Single European Sky” project, ended yesterday morning. The EU project has ambitious targets: to triple airspace capacity, reduce the environmental impact of aviation by 10 per cent and to halve air-navigation charges.

But Riccardo Rubini of the European Transport Workers’ Federation said the proposals made safety only a “second priority”. He said the European Commission was engaged in “a never-ending process of liberalisation and cost cutting in the air-traffic management industry that would reduce quality and the number of jobs”.