CEO Johan Lundgren says the airline doesn’t contest people’s right to strike but flights over French territory must be protected.
The CEO of budget airline easyJet has said that France needs to tackle strikes before tourists “go elsewhere”.
“The social movement has had consequences for 10 million travellers, 64,000 people have had their flights cancelled per day of the strike. This is unacceptable,” Johan Lundgren told AFP in an interview at Paris’s Orly Airport.
Along with other European countries, France’s travel sector has been hit by ongoing pension strikes. Airline workers and air traffic control staff have joined the industrial action to oppose the increase in retirement age. This has led to delays and disruption for passengers.
At some airports, France’s civil aviation authority has advised airlines to cancel up to 30 per cent of flights on strike days.
“We do not contest the right of people to strike, but the consequences must be proportionate and flights over French territory must be protected,” Lundgren says.
He revealed that easyJet has written to the French transport minister and aviation regulator asking for the “minimum level of service” imposed during strikes to be increased.
“If a country develops a bad reputation because of strikes, this will affect travel demand. People will go elsewhere,” Lundgren adds.
“Why should I go to France if I think I can be exposed to a strike?”
Will travel chaos continue this summer?
From 2014 to 2019, France was one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. In 2019 the country attracted 88.1 million visitors, according to GlobalData. There were strikes during this period too including the ‘yellow vest’ protests and previous actions on pensions.
Spain claimed the top spot for visitors in 2021, but France is on track to overtake it once again with 66.6 million international visitors in 2022.
But the rebound of tourism this summer hangs on whether the aviation industry can fix the issues it faced last year.
This summer, Lundgren believes that European air traffic control is the weakest link. Airlines have come together to call for an EU to reform airspace regulations and create a ‘Single European Sky’ that could remove borders in the sky.
Staffing has increased at most of the airports that suffered last year, Lundgren adds, with the exception of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, they are in a much stronger position.
“So I expect the summer to be better for customers.”