France strikes: Air traffic controllers announce action that could see half of flights cancelled

Parisian department store workers are also planning a strike

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The Independent Online

Millions of holiday-makers face travel disruption next week, when members of France’s two biggest air traffic controller unions begin a six-day strike.

The SNCTA and Unsa-ICNA unions announced on Friday that the round of industrial action would last from Tuesday 24 June until Sunday 29 June.

Air traffic controllers warned of “a heavy disruption of flights” during the strike which coincides with 10-day-long rail protests in the country which have severely disrupted both domestic and foreign travel.

50 per cent of scheduled flights scheduled flights will run, according to France Info, but controllers believe this is a conservative estimate.

Some 17.1 million UK citizens travel to France each year, mostly during the peak summer months.

The UK’s travel association, ABTA, met on Friday to discuss whether all flights in French airspace would be affected or specifically those flying to France.

Meanwhile, budget airline firms EasyJet and Ryanair both told the Telegraph that they are preparing contingency plans ahead of the strikes, and will advise customers when the scale of disruptions become clearer.

On Thursday evening, over 60 per cent of the 4,000 air traffic controllers voted in favour of the protest against government aviation cuts that will hit between 2015 and 2019. Staff fear the cuts will threaten “modernisation” and lead to a “forced low-cost” approach to their work, France24 reported.

The measures will be imposed in compliance with a European Commission plan to reduce air navigation costs by dividing European airspace into functional blocks according to traffic flows rather than national borders.

Those who do make it to France will find that service at well-known Paris department stores Galeries Lafayette and Printemps affected by a separate strike by retail workers.

Their action is in response to plans by French Foreign Minister Larent Fabius to introduce Sunday opening hours to boost tourism – a measure the CLIC-P union argues will have “no economic benefit” and will merely disrupt a “day of rest”.

The announcement comes amid the UK Passport Office fiasco, which has led to Home Secretary Theresa May promising a free fast-track service to people with an “urgent” need to travel.