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Four European airlines — Ryanair, EasyJet, Wizz Air and IAG (parent company of British Airways and Iberia, among others) — are not happy with French air traffic controllers. The four carriers are complaining to the European Union that the ATC staffers’ constant strikes are restricting movement within the whole of the EU.

French ATC workers have declared a series of strikes throughout 2018 to protest the government’s economic reforms.

The four airlines argue that the French ATC strikes break EU law in that by not enabling flights over the country during the demonstrations, passengers flying between other member states are denied their freedom of travel rights. French ATC handles more flights than any other European country. Its key location makes it a crossroads for flights to and from northern Europe and the Mediterranean.

The flight cancellations from the string of strikes by France’s ATC workers have cost the airlines millions in lost profits.

IAG, for one, has said that the strikes raise the airline’s fuel costs because its planes must use a less direct flight path and divert around French airspace during the demonstrations. EasyJet says its total costs will rise at least 3% this year due to the constant strikes, while Ryanair says that in May alone, 1,100 of its flights were canceled mainly due to the ATC demonstrations (its own staffing issues also played a role).

“Passengers on routes that overfly France, especially the large airspace that covers Marseille and the Mediterranean, are also subject to delays and massive disruptions,” IAG CEO Willie Walsh said. “The right to strike needs to be balanced against freedom of movement.”


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