French May Day strikes: Airlines asked to cancel flights as air traffic controllers walk out

Airlines have been asked to cancel flights in preparation for the air traffic control strikes.
Airlines have been asked to cancel flights in preparation for the air traffic control strikes. Copyright JULIEN DE ROSA/AFP
By Rosie Frost
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A number of airports across France have been asked to cancel flights and your journey could be affected even if you are just passing over the country.


Travellers have been warned to expect flight disruption as French air traffic controllers plan to strike on 1 May.

France’s civil aviation authority says industrial action is likely to affect Paris’ Orly, Charles de Gaulle and Beauvais airports as well as Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes and Nice.

But passengers could also face disruption even if their flight isn’t taking off or landing in France.

When and where will flights be disrupted by air traffic control strikes?

Monday 1 May is the next in a series of long-running French protests over an increase in the pension age from 62 to 64. Most unions are calling for people to take part in protests and marches on the streets.

But air traffic controllers have been taking part in rolling strikes and authorities have warned that this will result in disruption from the evening of Sunday 30 April until 6am on Tuesday 2 May.

In Paris, the Direction générale de l’aviation civile (DGAC) asked airlines to cancel 33 per cent of scheduled flights at Orly airport on 1 May and 25 per cent at Charles de Gaulle and Beauvais.

France has been rocked by three months of demonstrations and strikes over Macron's bid to raise the retirement age to 64 from 62.SEBASTIEN SALOM-GOMIS/AFP

Across the rest of France, the civil aviation authority has asked airlines to cancel 33 per cent of flights in Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux, Nantes and Toulouse and 25 per cent in Nice.

Flights that pass over French airspace are also likely to be affected by the disruption. Read on for more details on why.

Travellers are being asked to postpone trips if possible and anyone with a flight booked on those days is being advised to contact their airline for further details.

Why do air traffic control strikes affect flights that aren’t taking off or landing in France?

Around 3,300 flights take off or land in France every day - and 3,700 pass through the country’s airspace.

Because of its central European location, many flights make their way over France on their journey to other destinations. These ‘overflights’ are also affected when French air traffic controllers go on strike.

Between 1 March and 9 April, data from Eurocontrol shows that 15 per cent of flights in neighbouring Spain were delayed, a majority of which were overflights. Cancellations went up by 63 per cent.

A control tower of the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.JULIEN DE ROSA/AFP

The UK, Germany and Italy also saw between 6 and 8 per cent of departures disrupted which were again mostly overflights.

But this data doesn’t include flights cancelled more than three days before their scheduled departure or the knock-on effects of cancellations - like planes ending up in the wrong place.

In total, more than 10 million passengers were hit with delays or cancellations due to the strikes in the last month. Around half of these people are likely to have been on a flight that was only passing over France.

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