France implements new law to limit disruptions during air traffic control strikes

The new legislation should improve flight services throughout Europe.
The new legislation should improve flight services throughout Europe. Copyright Anete Lūsiņa
By Rebecca Ann Hughes
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The new legislation should improve flight services throughout Europe.


Travel has been plagued by strikes and walkouts over the last couple of years, but France is looking to improve the situation for passengers.

A new law has been adopted that will ensure less disruption to travellers during industrial action by French air traffic controllers.

The decision ironically prompted protests from air traffic controllers, who have planned a strike for Monday.

The industrial action will impact air travel at airports around France, as well as ‘overflights’ using French airspace.

But situations like this should be less frequent when the new law comes into force.

How will a new law lessen the impact of airport strikes in France?

At the moment, individual air traffic controllers planning on striking are not required to alert their superiors, although unions must issue industrial action notices in advance.

Under the new law, which was approved at the Assemblée nationale on Wednesday, air traffic controllers intending to join a strike are required to inform their bosses at least 48 hours in advance.

This rule is already in place for employees of the SNCF national railways and Paris public transport operator RATP.

The notice period gives employers time to draw up temporary timetables based on the number of staff who will be available.

It also allows the French Civil Aviation Authority DGAC, which orders airlines to cancel a certain percentage of flights when strikes are planned, to manage the situation more effectively.

If the DGAC knows how many staff will be on duty in advance, it can keep cancellations to a minimum instead of erring on the side of caution as is the case at the moment.

France’s central geographical position means industrial action by French air traffic controllers also impacts a large number of European flights passing through the country’s airspace.

The new legislation should therefore improve services throughout Europe.

Does the new law threaten French workers’ right to strike?

The new law was adopted with 85 votes in favour and 30 opposed. Those against the bill were mainly left-wing MPs who slammed it as a “threat against the right to strike”, according to news site The Local.

However, the legislation does not limit air traffic controllers’ rights to undertake industrial action, nor does it guarantee a minimum number of flights during strike hours.

The impact on services during a strike depends on the number of participating unions.

French air traffic controllers plan strike

Air traffic controllers have also protested the bill and planned a strike for Monday 20 November.

The industrial action has resulted in the cancellation of 25 per cent of flights at Paris-Orly and Toulouse-Blagnac airports and 20 per cent at Bordeaux-Mérignac and Marseille-Provence.


‘Olympic truce’: Will airport strikes impact Paris 2024?

With the Olympic Games on the horizon, some travellers may be worried about how strikes could impact their flights to Paris.

The largest union representing air traffic controllers, SNCTA, has announced an ‘Olympic truce’ saying walkouts are suspended until the Games are over.

It is also in favour of the new law.

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