Last updated: 11:30 AM ET, Tue March 22 2016

Ryanair Demands Action after Another French ATC Strike

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | March 22, 2016

Ryanair Demands Action after Another French ATC Strike

Photo courtesy of Ryanair

Ryanair has called on French authorities and the European Commission to intervene and stop the repeated strikes by French air traffic controllers. The latest strike has caused a significant number of delays and cancellations for the European budget airline and for its peers. Not only have flights bound for France been affected by the strike, so have planes that are simply flying over the country.

The strike, which caused cancellations on Sunday, is expected to last at least through Tuesday. Ryanair has been outspoken about these kinds of disruptions in the past. This time, however, the low-cost carrier has said that it is planning to take its complaints directly to the European Commission.

A movement to stop such strikes from occurring

Robin Kiely, the head of communications for Ryanair, spoke about the issue while announcing that delays were likely: "Due to yet another French ATC strike - the 41st such strike since 2009 - we regret that we were forced to cancel a number of flights on Sunday, with further flights canceled on Monday, and delays likely.”

Kiely continued by trying to get fliers involved in combating this kind of disruption. "It's grossly unfair that thousands of ordinary European consumers have their travel and holiday plans disrupted by the actions of a selfish few. We also encourage any affected customers to sign our online petition, Keep Europe's Skies Open."  

The petition will be taken to the European Commission as evidence that some action needs to be taken to stop such strikes. 

READ MORE: The Biggest Airline in the World Isn’t Who You Think

Other airlines also affected

Other airlines have also been affected. British Airways has used larger aircraft on some busy routes in an effort to minimize the number of planes that have to use French airspace. easyJet, meanwhile, announced that it has had to cancel more than 80 flights. easyJet has joined Ryanair’s call some action to be take, but British Airways has remained quiet.

Ryanair is in the midst of an aggressive expansion project, with new bases in Germany and Eastern Europe. These repeated stoppages affect its bottom line at a time when it is trying to build profitable operations in new locations.  

French ATC workers not happy with increased workload

French air traffic controllers, meanwhile, are saying that even though airlines and passengers are upset, the issues that they are trying to address with this strike are important to aviation safety. The problem is that there are fewer air traffic controllers working with an increasing amount of air traffic.

READ MORE: Why Europe's Biggest Rival Airlines Are Working Together

The current systems used by these ATC workers are dated, so there is no technology to make up for the falling number of qualified workers. One air traffic controller explained the issue like this: "If we had an up to date system then perhaps you could justify the drop in staff numbers. But we do a good job and they can't even be bothered to put a decent system in place, like most countries in the rest of Europe have. You can't reduce staff numbers while the technology remains backward.”

Perhaps the strikes are not effective

So something needs to change. However, given that French ATC workers have resorted to striking so often, it is starting to seem obvious that doing so is not going to lead to a solution that they will be happy with. Perhaps they would be better off spinning their need for new equipment as an aviation safety issue and taking it to European leaders instead of striking and not getting any satisfaction from French authorities.

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