Air Traffic Controller strike to disrupt travel on Friday

The French Civil Aviation Authority has asked airlines to cut the number of flights in half on Friday, anticipating major disruptions due to a planned air traffic controllers strike.

France’s air navigation services manage one of Europe’s biggest, and most jam-packed, areas of airspace. Controlling more than three million flights, 60% of which are flights flying over but not landing in the country, they have a massive job and huge responsibilities.

Air traffic controllers and their union, the Syndicat National des Contrôleurs du Trafic Aérien (SNCTA), are asking for higher pay, and they are going on strike to try and get it.

The strike, planned for Friday 16th September, means travellers should expect flight cancellations and significant delays, whilst Eurocontrol, Europe’s air travel regulator, looks for ways to avoid French airspace. Additionally, the Civil Aviation Authority is encouraging “passengers who can, to postpone their trips and to enquire with their airline to know the status of their flight” to do so.

Air France, easyJet, Transavia, Ryanair, and Volotea are expected to be the most affected by the action. They collectively operate about 64% of all flights scheduled to depart France on Friday.

French airspace extends over 14 million square kilometres spanning mainland France, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and French overseas territories. The French State Air Navigation Service provider controlled 3.2 million flights in 2018, an average of 8,800 flights per day, with peaks of up to 11,000 flights.

The air traffic controller strike is an extension of the summertime woes plaguing the air travel industry. Airlines were forced to cancel thousands of flights, responding to massive staffing shortages as well as strikes by pilots, cabin crew, and baggage handlers all angling for better pay and working conditions.