European Airlines cancelled half of the flights scheduled for Paris on Friday, September 16 and many others that would have flown over France, as a strike by air traffic controllers imposed the latest round of disruption on European air travel.
More than 400 flights departing from or arriving at Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly airports had been cancelled, and about 200 had been delayed, by midday on Friday, according to FlightAware, which provides flight tracking data. Hundreds of flights to and from Lyon, Nice, Marseille, Bordeaux and Toulouse had also been cancelled or delayed.
”It is inexplicable that thousands of European citizens/visitors will have their travel plans unfairly disrupted by yet another French ATC (air traffic control) strike,” Ryanair said in a statement. The travel plans of 80,000 passengers had been affected when it had cancelled 420 flights, mainly intended to fly over France, the airline added.
Strikes and staff shortages in the past few months have forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights, dashing hopes for a sizzling first summer following widespread COVID-19 lockdowns, with disruption continuing into the autumn.
Air France said on Wednesday, September 14 that due to the then impending strike it would operate only 45% of its short and medium-range flights and 90% of its long-haul flights.
”Everything is very quiet, as the passengers had been warned and did not go to the airports,” a spokesperson of Groupe ADP, operator of the Parisian airports said. The spokesperson added that airlines had tended to cut short and medium services rather than long ones.
Aviation authority DGAC asked airlines to halve their Friday flight schedules. Air traffic control union SNCTA in a statement cited inflation and its demand for more staff members as reasons for the walkout.
Low-cost carrier EasyJet said it had cancelled 76 flights due to the strike. British Airways said it had made a small number of changes to its short-haul schedule and is offering rebooking and refund options to customers whose flights have been cancelled.
Major airports in neighbouring countries also felt the impact, with Spanish airport operator AENA saying it had been forced to cancel 65 flights.
Disruption was also expected on Monday, September 19 as London’s Heathrow airport said some flights would be cancelled or delayed to keep airspace silent during events to mark the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.
In Europe, strikes over the summer have disrupted travel plans, just as the end of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge in demand for air travel.
In late July, Lufthansa Airlines cancelled virtually all its flights in and out of Frankfurt and Munich over 48 hours after around 3,000 employees staged a strike for better wages. The strike left more than 130,000 travellers without flights.
Companies have also had to contend with labour shortages, after having laid off baggage handlers and ground crews when air travel was grounded because of the pandemic. Job vacancies among airport staff have led to long lines at airports and have caused flight cancellations, delays and frustration.