Ryanair cancels 300 flights across Europe as French air traffic controllers go on strike

Budget airline’s chief calls on EU to protect overflights and allow other European controllers to manage flights in French airspace

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Thursday 25 April 2024 12:07 BST
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Related: Ryanair backs staying in EU

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Ryanair has cancelled more than 300 flights scheduled for Thursday due to a strike by French air traffic control workers, the airline said.

The budget airline added that the cancellations would affect around 50,000 passengers across Europe as strikes in France limit flights not only in and out of the country but across the continent.

Ryanair called on the European Union to reform its skies by providing legal protection to overflights during air traffic control strikes and allowing other European controllers to manage flights in the French airspace.

“French air traffic controllers are free to go on strike, that’s their right, but we should be cancelling French flights, not flights leaving Ireland, going to Italy, or flights from Germany to Spain or Scandinavia to Portugal,” Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The European Commission under Ursula von der Leyen has failed for five years to take any action to protect overflights and the single market for air travel,” he added.

“We’re again calling on her to take action to protect overflights which will eliminate over 90 per cent of these flight cancellations.”

Several airlines were forced to cancel flights despite the SNCTA, the largest of France's air traffic controllers union, calling off the 25 April strike after reaching a deal with management over working conditions.

The French civil aviation authority on Wednesday said it had asked airlines to cancel 75 per cent of Thursday's flights at Paris’s Orly airport, 55 per cent at Charles-De-Gaulle and 65 per cent at Marseille.

The authority said the deal with SNCTA came too late to avoid traffic disruptions and discussions had still not been finalised with other unions.

"While the withdrawing of strike notice may offer some relief for some passengers, its last-minute nature means that there will still be significant disruption to flights in France and across parts of Europe," Ourania Georgoutsakou, head of industry group Airlines for Europe, told Reuters.

As many as 16,000 flights were cancelled and 85,000 delayed last year due to air traffic control strikes in Europe.

Airline officials have voiced concern that air traffic control strikes could pose a risk to the Paris Olympics if sufficient deals aren’t struck in advance. The Olympics start in late July.

Meanwhile, O’Leary earlier told The Independent that British passengers faced higher fares this summer.

"I think that’s probably likely given the reductions in capacity across Europe this summer with the grounding of 20 per cent of the Airbus fleet," the Ryanair chief executive said.

"We’re short of aircraft because of Boeing delivery delays. But I don’t think people, if they get a better service, will mind paying more than they did this time last year.”

“In terms of inflation elsewhere in the UK or the European economies, it’s still a great deal. And if you look at the weather here in the UK for about the last three or four months – people are desperate to go to the beaches in the sunshine destinations of Europe for a well-earned holiday,” he added.

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