Disgruntled French air traffic controllers and 300,000 French workerseffectively ruined the holidays for thousands of Britons during the half term week.
The air traffic workers went on a two-day strike, starting on April 8, after a dispute over the retirement age for air traffic controllers being raised from 57 years to 59 years.
The strikes have already caused major chaos across Europe, with many Britons remaining stranded overseas, after three of the worst affected airlines had to cancel flights:
- Budget airline easyJet cancelled 579 flights in total over the last two days.
- Low-cost airline Ryanair cancelled just over 500 flights over the last two days.
- Air France said 75% of its flights from Orly airport in Paris are cancelled. However, it said it is operating 50% of medium-haul flights to and from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport. Around 40% of flights to and from cities in the rest of France are also operational. It said l ong-haul Air France flights were affected on Thursday.
AFP reported that by including all airlines into the cancelled flight tally, around 2,000 flights have been cancelled in total.
“We can assure our passengers that we are doing everything possible to limit the inconvenience of this strike on them,” said Roger Rousseau, head of the SNCTA union that represents the striking workers, in a statement.
Many Britons are stranded across Europe due to the industrial action.
easyJet is operating five “rescue” flights today to fetch three parties of schoolchildren from France and bring them back to the UK.
Meanwhile, British families are finding that they are stuck abroad because there are simply no flights back to the UK.
“We have a four-month-old baby and his formula milk has ran out and he is not drinking much of the other variety, so I am concerned,” said Johanna Booth, from Liverpool, to the BBC. “The support we have received from Ryanair has been minimal.”
She is apparently stuck in Barcelona after two Ryanair flights were cancelled.
Ryanair said in a statement to the BBC (emphasis ours):
We again call on the EU and French authorities to act now and prevent thousands of travellers being held to ransom by these French [air traffic control] workers.
Meanwhile, an easyjet spokesperson said in a statement, presented in a video on YouTube:
The unnecessary strike has caused considerable and disproportionate disruption for passengers and airlines across Europe.
But the travelling pain is set to continue as f
urther strikes are planned for April 16 to April 18 and then again between April 29 to May 2. This time, the strikes will coincide with spring school holidays in France in May.
Meanwhile, nationwide strikes across France, called by key unions like the Communist-backed CGT, kept key tourist destinations closed.
According to the CGT union, 300,000 people turned out in marches to protest against the government’s austerity measures, including state funding cuts and new rules that allow businesses to fire workers more easily.
Major tourist hot spots, like the Eiffel Tower, were closed as thousands of workers marched across the capital.
Police say 32,000 people marched in Paris on Thursday while CGT put the figure at 120,000.
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