Air traffic controllers' strike sparks travel chaos
French air traffic controllers have gone on strike over a plan to unify European airspace. The strike, which is expected to cancel many flights in and out of France on Wednesday, comes as many in France are leaving for their summer holidays.
French air traffic controllers have gone on strike and the industrial action is expected to result in severe disruption to many flights in and out of France through Wednesday and into Thursday.
The strike could not come at a more inconvenient time, with many French people trying to head off for their annual summer holidays.
France’s civil aviation authority said it had asked airlines to scrap 20 percent of flights Wednesday at Charles de Gaulle airport and 50 percent at the smaller Orly airport.
It has also been reported that storms forecast could provoke further delays.
Air traffic controller unions are striking over a plan to unify European airspace. France is set to join Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg to create a regional authority, the Functional Airspace Block Europe Central (FABEC).
The Single European Sky concept is meant to ensure greater efficiency and deal with
a projected increase in traffic by allowing planes to fly more direct routes across the continent.
But French air traffic controllers are worried about the social consequences of the plan, including the "dismantlement" of France's national air traffic control.
French Junior Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau has called the strike “inappropriate”. Meanwhile, Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo defended the plan for European airspace. “For security, CO2, and reducing use of fuel, it is necessary for European airspace to evolve”, he said.
National carrier Air France did report, however, that all its long-haul flights were scheduled to run normally Wednesday. It said 80 percent of short- and medium-haul routes would operate at Charles de Gaulle, while half of short- and medium-haul flights would run at Orly.
The strike officially started Tuesday evening, and is expected to end Thursday morning.