French air traffic controllers’ strike impacts travel across Europe

France’s striking air traffic controllers have failed to reach an agreement with authorities, triggering mass cancellations and delays all over the continent. 45% of flights in and out of Nice Côte d’Azur Airport are said to have been impacted. 

Though the strike was initially believed to have been called off on Wednesday 24th April thanks to a last-minute deal with the National Union of Air Traffic Controllers (SNCTA), the main union in the sector, it all seems to have fallen apart again, with the other two controllers’ unions refusing to budge.  

The fallout has led to mass confusion and chaos in airports all over Europe as airlines scramble to get flights safely off the ground.  

In an interview with French news channel LCI, Sophie Binet, the general secretary of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), has explained the reasoning behind her union’s decision to hold out. 

“The problem is that there are negotiations that have been open for 15 months, but are not moving forward,” she said. “The proof is that the air traffic controllers are forced to strike or threaten to strike to make management hear their arguments. We ask them [air traffic controllers] to work more and the least we can do is that they be paid more, and that is what management is refusing today.”  

As of 11am on Thursday 25th April, 45% of flights in and out of Nice Côte d’Azur Airport are understood to have been impacted by the situation. This is down from the initial 60% that had been projected the day before. 

“Due to a national air navigation strike, disruptions and flight cancellations are to be expected,” reads a statement on the Nice Côte d’Azur Airport website. “You can follow the traffic updates and flight status in real-time on our website or mobile app.”  

At Paris Orly, cancellations could reach 75%, according to reports, while 55% of flights at Charles de Gaulle could be grounded as well as 65% in Marseille.  

Airline officials and authorities alike have both argued that if negotiations don’t move ahead quickly, the current state of affairs could led to further problems down the line, particularly during the Paris Olympics this summer. 

More than a million people are anticipated to travel through airports in the French capital during this period, and future strike action and disruptions could prove devastating to the reputation of the city and the event.  

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Photo source: Erik Odiin, Unsplash