Air France flight cancellations: why air traffic controllers are striking as 50% of flights axed

An Air France plane is seen on the tarmac at Charles de Gaulle airport in Roissy-en-France, on September 8, 2022. (Photo by CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images)An Air France plane is seen on the tarmac at Charles de Gaulle airport in Roissy-en-France, on September 8, 2022. (Photo by CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images)
An Air France plane is seen on the tarmac at Charles de Gaulle airport in Roissy-en-France, on September 8, 2022. (Photo by CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images
Air France has already axed over 50% of its flights on the day of the strike, warning that more last minute cancellations ‘cannot be ruled out’

DGAC, France’s aviation authority, has warned of “severe” disruptions ahead of planned strikes by air traffic controllers.

Airlines in France have been advised by the civil aviation authority to halve their number of scheduled flights ahead of the scheduled industrial action.

This is what you need to know.

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When are the strikes happening?

A one day strike will be held on Friday 16 September, beginning at 6am and ending at 6am on Saturday.

The French Syndicat National des Controleurs du Trafic Aerien (SNCTA) union, the main union for traffic controllers in the country, said: “Faced with the failure of negotiations, the SNCTA maintains the strike notice of Friday, September 16 and calls for general mobilisation.”

Passengers look at departures boards, on April 8, 2015 at Orly airport, outside Paris, as hundreds of flights to and from France were expected to be cancelled today as air traffic controllers launched a two-day strike over working conditions (Photo by THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)Passengers look at departures boards, on April 8, 2015 at Orly airport, outside Paris, as hundreds of flights to and from France were expected to be cancelled today as air traffic controllers launched a two-day strike over working conditions (Photo by THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Passengers look at departures boards, on April 8, 2015 at Orly airport, outside Paris, as hundreds of flights to and from France were expected to be cancelled today as air traffic controllers launched a two-day strike over working conditions (Photo by THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

According to the SNCTA website, a second three day strike notice is also being filed, which will last from Wednesday 28 to Friday 30 September, should an agreement not be reached after Friday.

Why are French air traffic controllers striking?

SNCTA called for the strike in response to ongoing disputes over pay and working conditions.

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In a statement released by the union, it said that inflation was impacting workers pay and called for wage increases as well as for more recruitment.

It said: “Between 2029 and 2035, one third of the [air traffic control] workforce is retiring. It is imperative that we anticipate and plan recruitment.

“If not, the consequences will be inevitable in terms of the public service, working conditions and flexibility.”

Have flights been cancelled?

Airlines in France have been advised by the civil aviation authority DGAC to trim down their timetables by half ahead of the strike.

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Air France has reportedly cancelled 55% of its short and medium haul flights, and 10% of its long haul flights, for Friday.

Air France has also added that “delays and last minute cancellations cannot be ruled out”.

The First Air France Airbus A220-300 during its unveiling at Air France facility in Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport, on September 29, 2021. (Photo by ERIC PIERMONT/AFP via Getty Images)The First Air France Airbus A220-300 during its unveiling at Air France facility in Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport, on September 29, 2021. (Photo by ERIC PIERMONT/AFP via Getty Images)
The First Air France Airbus A220-300 during its unveiling at Air France facility in Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport, on September 29, 2021. (Photo by ERIC PIERMONT/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Companies like Easyjet, Transavia, Ryanair and Volotea have also braced for disruption.

Easyjet said in a statement: “Like all airlines operating to/from French airports, Easyjet expects some disruptions to its flying program and has been requested by the French CAA to proceed to cancellations.”

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Brussels Airlines have also cancelled a number of flights on Thursday (15 September) evening, as well as further flights on Friday.

The DGAC has advised that those with travel plans booked should reach out to their carrier for more information about whether their flight has been impacted.

DGAC has also said that it has been working with Eurocontrol, the European air travel regulator, to ensure airlines avoid airspace over France.

A picture taken on August 6, 2018 shows EasyJet planes on the tarmac Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport, north of Paris. (Photo by JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images)A picture taken on August 6, 2018 shows EasyJet planes on the tarmac Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport, north of Paris. (Photo by JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images)
A picture taken on August 6, 2018 shows EasyJet planes on the tarmac Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport, north of Paris. (Photo by JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Air France says that customers affected by cancelled flights will be notified individually by SMS and email.

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Those passengers will be offered rebooking options at no cost, or a full refund should they decide not to travel at all.

The company says: “If your flight is cancelled or delayed by more than five hours and you decide not to travel, you can obtain a refund for your ticket by contacting your point of sale directly.

“If you bought your ticket on [the Air France] website, please click on the “Refunds” section at the bottom of the page.”

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