France air traffic controller strike called off
There was relief for travellers across Europe Wednesday as French air traffic controllers called an early end to a strike that has caused disruptions for thousands of passengers over the past two days.
The strike by members of the Unsa-ICNA union was launched on Tuesday against what some air traffic controllers say is a lack of sufficient funding for a sector in dire need of modernisation and was due to last until the end of the weekend,
But the remainder of the strike was called off after the government recognised the "importance of investment in the sector," said Unsa-ICNA following lengthy talks with state officials.
The strike had caused scores of flights to be cancelled Tuesday and Wednesday, including those of Air France and budget carriers EasyJet and Ryanair.
France’s civil aviation body said around one in five flights going to and from several cities in southern France, or taking off from Paris to the south, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, were cancelled on Wednesday -- the same situation as the previous day.
Meanwhile, some 600 passengers were stranded Wednesday in Paris’s Orly airport, an airport source said.
They included about 200 people, most of whom had been due to travel with low cost airline Vueling, to Spain and Portugal and were forced to spend the night of Tuesday to Wednesday in Orly.
The strike has been blasted by airlines and trade groups, with the International Air Transport Association condemning "unions bent on stopping progress" at the height of the tourist season in France.
Air traffic controllers involved in the action want airport fees for airlines to increase by 10 percent, but companies want them to go down and the government is caught in between.
The SNCTA, the country's biggest air traffic control union, decided not to go on strike following last-ditch negotiations with the government but has echoed mounting concerns that French air navigation tools are becoming dangerously obsolete.
The system used in the country to enhance radar monitoring and for separation of air traffic dates back to the 1980s, and is due to be replaced by a new system.
The tools used to control air traffic are also in need of change.
According to the SNCTA, for instance, all radar screens in the Aix-en-Provence control centre in southern France were recently "urgently" changed after around 20 screens suddenly went blank over the space of 18 months.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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