Another Week, Another French Aviation Strike

May 21, 2018

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“Severe” disruptions to air travel are expected throughout France on Tuesday due to a strike of the country’s air traffic controllers.

Several European carriers, including British Airways, Air France, Ryanair and Aer Lingus, have been canceling or amending their operations in the region. Additionally, because Tuesday’s strike involves ATC workers (rather than employees at specific airports or airlines), flights with routes through French airspace will also be affected. 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.

“Unfortunately, if the threatened strike does go ahead, we are likely to be forced to cancel some flights as a result of the strike action and other short-haul flights may also experience some disruption, given how many flights from numerous European airlines would normally use French airspace each day,” British Airways wrote on its website.

Airlines are urging customers to double check their flight status and/or reschedule their flights with no extra change fee. Any canceled flights will be refunded or rebooked, the airlines said. Here are the details on travel waivers as of Monday morning:

Air France:

“If you have a valid Air France ticket, issued on or before 18 May, 2018, for a flight operated by Air France or HOP on 22 May, 2018, to the following cities: Paris-Orly, Lyon or Marseille, you can anticipate your trip on 21 May, or postpone it until 25 May 2018 inclusive.

You can change your booking at no extra cost for the same travel cabin. You may also choose to postpone your flight to after 25 May 2018, change your country of destination or origin or cancel your trip. In this case, we will provide you with a voucher valid for 1 year on AIR FRANCE, KLM or HOP! flights. This voucher is non-refundable.”

British Airways:

“Any customer, who purchased a ticket before 18 May, due to fly to or from any French airport as well as Barcelona and Madrid on a British Airways operated flight on Tuesday 22 May, regardless of whether their flight is operating or not, can bring their flight forward to 21 May or move it back to either 23 or 24 May. All rebookings are subject to availability.”


If you’re flying with Delta to, from or through Paris (ORY), Lyon (LYS) or Marseille (MRS) between May 21-22, you can rebook your flight. Your ticket must be reissued on or before May 25, and rebooked travel must begin no later than May 25. When rescheduled travel occurs beyond May 25, 2018, the change fee will be waived. However, a difference in fare may apply.


“Due to yet another French ATC strike, Ryanair regrets to inform customers that it has been forced to cancel a number of flights on Tuesday (22 May). All affected customers have been contacted by email and text message and advised of their options: a full refund, rebooking on to the next available flight or transferring to an alternative flight.”

Aer Lingus:

“We advise all guests with planned travel to France to check the status of their flight, using our live flight information tool, before departing for the airport. Guests travelling to a French airport on an Aer Lingus operated flight on Tuesday 22 May, can opt to change the date of their flight to Monday 21 May, Wednesday 23, Thursday 24, or Friday 25 May, regardless of whether their flight is operating or not.”

The French Civil Aviation Authority specifically asked airlines in the region to cut one in five flights to and from Paris-Orly (ORY), Lyon (LYS) and Marseilles (MRS) airports.

The total number of flights affected is still being calculated by French officials, although cancellations were already reported to be in the hundreds by Monday morning. The country’s Civil Aviation Authority said its ATC capacity would be determined by the number of employees it has available Tuesday. Airlines are expecting last-minute cancellations and delays.

BA has cancelled at least 36 flights so far, affecting destinations ranging from London, France, Switzerland and Italy. Flights to Barcelona and Madrid are also snarled due to the strike.

“As this is a nationwide strike, the impact on EU airlines and their passengers is expected to be severe,” lobby group Airlines For Europe announced.

The Trade Union Association of Civil Aviation said it would be striking from Monday night to Wednesday morning “for the defense of public service,” vaguely adding that the demonstration was to “resist the erosion of human rights.” Tuesday’s demonstration by France’s ATC workers is part of a larger nationwide strike among France’s public sector workers, including railroad employees and other mass transit staffers. So general travel in France is likely to grind to a near halt Tuesday.

The air traffic controllers’ strike comes amid ongoing demonstrations by Air France employees over pay disputes that have roiled flights throughout Paris and the rest of the country since early February.

H/T: The Independent

Featured image by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images.

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