Airlines lodge complaints to European Commission over French ATC strikes

A number of airlines have submitted complaints to the European Commission against France as its air traffic controllers' (ATC) strikes continue.

International Airlines Group (IAG), Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air say that while they do not question the right to strike they believe that the strikes restrict the fundamental principle of freedom of movement within the EU.

They said that passengers on overflights are being denied their fundamental freedom to travel between member states not affected by strike action as France does not enable flights over the country during strikes.

French ATC strikes have increased by 300% so far this year compared to 2017 and the French Senate confirmed last month that France alone is responsible for 33% of flight delays in Europe.

In the June 13 report, the Senate also stated that the right to strike has to be balanced against the obligation to provide public service.

Willie Walsh, IAG's chief executive, said that it is not just customers flying in and out of France who are affected during the strikes.

"Passengers on routes that overfly France, especially the large airspace that covers Marseille and the Mediterranean, are also subject to delays and massive disruptions," said Mr Walsh.

"This affects all airlines but has a significant negative impact on Spain’s tourism and economy."

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, said: “Europe’s ATC providers are reaching the point of meltdown with hundreds of flights being cancelled and delayed daily either because of ATC strikes or because Europe’s ATC don’t have enough staff.

When Greece and Italy have ATC strikes, overflights continue as normal. Why won’t France do the same? ATC providers (especially in Germany and the UK) are hiding behind adverse weather and euphemisms such as “capacity restrictions” when the truth is they are not rostering enough air traffic controllers to cater for the number of flights that are scheduled to operate.

"These disruptions are unacceptable, and we call on Europe’s Governments and the EU Commission to take urgent and decisive action to ensure that ATC providers are fully staffed and that overflights are not affected when national strikes take place, as they repeatedly do in France."

The complaints state that there is a legal precedent to the case.

In 1997, the Spanish complained to the European Commission after they suffered for many years when French farmers prevented their fruit and vegetable exports into the EU.

The European Court ruled against France as the French authorities did not address the farmers’ actions and failed to ensure the free movement of goods.

Digital Desk

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