Strikes over air traffic changes cause delays at French airports

Marion Dakers
HUNDREDS of flights in France were cancelled yesterday as air traffic control staff across Europe walked out over plans to unite the continent’s air space.

The French civil aviation authority asked airlines to axe a fifth of flights into Paris airports yesterday, while passengers in Italy and Portugal also faced disruption.

UK services, however, were largely unaffected by the industrial action. Heathrow cancelled around a dozen flights while Gatwick reported a handful of delays.

British Airways used larger planes on its services to Paris to accommodate passengers whose flights were cancelled, while low-cost carrier Ryanair had to scrap around 80 flights across Europe yesterday.

“After a long and disappointing process where unions and professional representatives have been constantly ignored, the promises made by the EC that our views and contributions would be taken on board have come to nothing… we have arrived to this stage,” said the Air Traffic Controllers European Unions Co-ordination in a statement yesterday.

Air traffic controllers are protesting the European Commission’s so-called single sky plan, which will merge some national air regulation in the hope of making flight patterns more efficient. The European Parliament is due to vote on the new rules in March.

Unions contend that the long-awaited changes, first proposed in 1999, will endanger passengers and lead to 10,000 job losses.