Europe’s largest low-cost carrier Ryanair was forced to cancel 400 flights this week, due to ongoing strikes by French air traffic controllers (ATC). The strikes were part of a wider labour dispute over working conditions and pay.
The cancellations which took place on Tuesday, June 6 affected flights to and from France, as well as flights that transited French airspace. Ryanair said that it was “proactively” contacting affected customers to offer them alternative flights or refunds.
Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary commented on this week’s flight cancellations saying: “Again today, we have had to cancel just about 400 flights out of the 3,200 flights we had scheduled to operate.”
“All of these flights have been cancelled because of French ATC strikes. The vast majority of these flights are overflights and not going to France.”
The French government said that it was “deeply disappointed” by the strikes and that it was working to resolve the dispute as quickly as possible.
The strikes have also caused continued disruption to flights across Europe. Several other airlines, including EasyJet and British Airways, have also previously cancelled flights due to the strikes
Ryanair and over 1.1mil fed up passengers
This week, Ryanair repeated its call to the EU to protect overflights the French airspace from being disrupted due to the ongoing French ATC strikes.
Last week, Ryanair delivered its ‘Protect Overflights: Keep EU Skies Open’ petition to EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen’s office.
The airline has collected more than 1.1 million signatures from fed-up passengers demanding that the EU Commission protect overflights and EU citizens’ freedom of movement during repeated ATC strikes.
In the past 5 months of 2023, there has been 58 days of ATC strikes (over 11 times more than in 2022).
These repeated ATC strikes have unfairly forced airlines to disproportionately cancel thousands of EU overflights from Germany, Spain, Italy, the UK and Ireland.
In a statement this week the airline said that “France in particular, uses Minimum Service Laws to protect their domestic/short-haul flights while cancelling overflights. This is unfair.”
“France (and all other EU states) should use Minimum Service Laws to protect overflights during ATC strikes as they do in Greece, Italy and Spain.”
Labour disputes in the European aviation sector
The French ATC strikes are the latest in a series of labour disputes that have hit the European aviation industry in recent months.
In April, Ryanair pilots in Belgium went on strike for two days, causing the cancellation of hundreds of flights.
In May, EasyJet pilots in Spain went on strike for four days, causing the cancellation of thousands of flights.
The labour disputes are a sign of the growing strain on the European aviation industry. The industry is struggling to cope with rising fuel costs, increased competition, and a shortage of staff. The strikes are likely to add to the pressure on the industry and could lead to further disruptions in the coming months.
Here are some of the overriding reasons for the strikes:
Working conditions: Air traffic controllers are demanding better working conditions, including shorter working hours and more time off.
Pay: ATC personnel are also demanding a pay rise.
Job security: In addition to concerns around pay and conditions, air traffic controllers are additionally concerned about job security, as the French government is planning to privatize the air traffic control system.
The strikes are likely to continue until the French government and unions representing air traffic controllers reach an agreement. The agreement is likely to require concessions on both sides.