British holidaymakers to face Easter travel chaos as French air traffic controllers plot major walkout

Air traffic controllers in France are planning a walkout, which could cause travel chaos for UK holidaymakers next month.

According to the CEOs of Europe’s largest airlines, air passengers are in for a “very difficult summer” as a result of strike action.

Last month, Ryanair cancelled 230 flights due to ongoing strikes in France. According to The Times, the airline cancelled 60 flights yesterday and will cancel another 60 today.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary called it a “scandal” that French strikes had grounded many flights over French airspace, disrupting services between the busy tourist markets of the United Kingdom and Spain.

Elsewhere, Heathrow Airport faces a walkout of 1,400 members of the unite union tomorrow in a dispute over pay – with many vowing not to return to work until April 9 despite a ten per cent pay rise offer. 

‘It is difficult to explain to passengers in the UK, Ireland, and Spain that their flights have been cancelled because a few air traffic controllers in France have walked out, even though their flight is not landing in France,’ Mr O’Leary said.

Easyjet CEO Johan Lundgren described problems beyond the company’s control, such as strikes, as a “huge challenge.”

Air traffic controllers in France can retire at the age of 57 and are exempt from Macron’s plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. However, many are walking out “in solidarity” with other industries.

Under European passenger laws, airlines must compensate passengers for long delays or cancellations, but they are unable to recover penalties from air traffic authorities when airspace is blocked.

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Tensions between airlines and French controllers have been a recurring issue, but they erupted this year when the controllers went on strike over proposed changes to the retirement age.