French air traffic controller strike causes disruption across Europe

 
Marion Dakers
A STRIKE by French air traffic controllers prompted airlines to cancel hundreds of flights into and out of the UK yesterday, with more delays expected today and tomorrow.

Heathrow Airport said around 30 of its services, mostly run by British Airways and Air France, had been cancelled ahead of time yesterday, and additional delays were possible.

EasyJet and Ryanair also called off dozens of flights each.

In total, around 1,800 flights were axed from French airports including the Charles de Gaulle hub in Paris. Up to half of French services are expected to be scrapped between yesterday and Thursday.

Preparations for the maiden flight of Europe’s newest passenger jet, the Airbus A350, were also affected by fallout from the strike, French sources told Reuters.

The three-day strike was called by air traffic controllers to protest against the EU’s plans to centrally regulate all European airspace.

The so-called single sky plan aims to save up to €5bn a year by resolving “inefficiencies in Europe's fragmented airspace”, the European Commission said.

“We cannot afford to continue this way,” said EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas yesterday. “[W]e are strengthening the nuts and bolts of the system so it can withstand more pressure and deliver ambitious reforms even in difficult economic times.”