Tens of thousands of British travellers stranded after second day of French air-traffic controllers strike

Any flight that travels over the country affected

Tens of thousands of British travellers are waking up this morning many miles away from their intended destination. A second day of strikes by French air-traffic controllers caused even more disruption than the first, with more than 1,000 flights to, from or over France cancelled and a further 4,000 seriously delayed.

The controllers' union, the USAC-CGT, has called off the last day of the strike, which is now to end at 6am on Thursday. British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair all plan to operate normal schedules. But Air France, which has been hit more heavily than other airlines, said only "Our flight operations will gradually return to normal".

The strike was called in protest against much-delayed EU plans to implement the "Single European Skies", aimed at erasing national boundaries. The project has ambitious targets: to triple airspace capacity, reduce the environmental impact of aviation by 10 per cent and to halve air-navigation charges.

The EU estimates that the typical intra-European flight covers 26 more miles than necessary, as pilots follow indirect tracks that individual nations insist upon. The idea is to replace the current patchwork of airspace units with nine much larger "Functional Airspace Blocks" - such as that pioneered by the UK and Ireland.

The scheme was originally expected to be in place by 1995, but has been characterised  by monumental foot-dragging.

The French controllers claim that the plans would "violate national sovereignty" and jeopardise safety standards. Advocates of the scheme say the essence of the project is to be supra-national - and that reducing the barriers to free movement in the skies will enhance safety.

While the two sides bickered, passengers found themselves unwittingly caught up in the consequences. Air France said: "The situation is severely disrupted," though it hoped to operate all long-haul services.

Many British passengers planning to transfer to those intercontinental flights were stranded at various UK airports. Grounded passengers are entitled to care from the airline, in the shape of meals and accommodation, but are not due any compensation since the cancellations were beyond the airline's control. Passengers are not entitled to step aboard the first departure once flights resume; they go to the back of the queue, scrambling for the remaining unsold seats on heavily booked services.

Britain's biggest budget airline, easyJet, said "All of our flights that overfly French airspace are experiencing significant slot delays and this is affecting our entire flying programme". Sixty-five per cent of the airline's 1,300 daily flights normally overfly French territory.

Many other carriers adopted longer flight paths to avoid France; Scandinavian holidaymakers bound for Spain found themselves flying over Ireland, while Italy-bound jets from the UK were caught up in congestion over western Germany and Switzerland

The airlines are furious that controllers are, once again, wielding their industrial might against rationalisation. Besides the millions of pounds they are likely to spend meeting their legal obligation to care for passengers, they have lost even more in revenue from cancelled flights.

Ryanair, which cancelled 400 flights today, demanded that the EU remove the air traffic controllers' right to strike. Its spokesman, Robin Keily, said: "It is grossly unfair that thousands of passengers had their plans disrupted as a result of Europe being held to ransom by tiny numbers of French air traffic controllers."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Day In a Page

    Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

    Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

    Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US