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Airline bosses sign 'call for action' over air traffic control strikes

Published 28/06/2016

Ryanair cancelled 166 flights due to the latest French air traffic control strike, affecting 30,000 passengers
Ryanair cancelled 166 flights due to the latest French air traffic control strike, affecting 30,000 passengers

Airline bosses have signed a "call for action" to keep Europe's skies open during air traffic control (ATC) strikes.

The chief executives of easyJet, Ryanair and British Airways' parent company IAG were among those who supported the measure at a summit in Brussels.

The meeting in the Belgian capital took place amid another strike by French ATC unions which caused hundreds of flights to be cancelled.

Since 2010 there have been 213 days of disruption in Europe due to ATC strikes, according to lobby group Airlines for Europe (A4E).

Some 30,000 flights were cancelled as a result of the disputes, affecting more than two million passengers.

The disruption also caused delays of more than six million minutes.

The "call for action" contains a number of proposals that air traffic controllers and their unions could voluntarily commit to in order to minimise the negative impact of strikes.

They include:

:: Participating in arbitrary or conciliatory procedures before taking industrial action.

:: Protecting flights over a country affected by strikes.

:: Providing advance warning at least 21 days before a strike and a 72-hour advance notification of the expected participation by employees so airlines can better anticipate the level of disruption.

A4E challenged the signatories to also consider more ambitious measures in the longer term, such as minimum service provisions, ATC being carried out by other countries over a region affected by strike action, and a "right of redress" with air navigation service providers for the impact of disruption from industrial disputes in a bid to encourage constructive negotiations.

A PwC study commissioned by A4E calculated that the cumulative impact of ATC strikes on GDP in the European Union from 2010-2015 was 9.5 billion euros (£7.9bn), which was associated with 131,000 jobs.

The majority of the economic impact was due to a cut in tourism spending worth five billion euros (£4.2bn).

Reduced productivity through delayed journeys was worth three billion euros (£2.5bn), followed by lower airline revenues costing around 497 million euros (£413 million).

There were 167 strike days in the EU during the six-year period, most frequently in France, followed by Greece, Italy and Portugal.

EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall told the summit: "You cannot put a number on the loss in terms of people missing out on weddings, family holidays, important business meetings.

"ATC strikes are one of the most damaging issues facing passengers and airlines today.

"It is an immediate and pressing issue, but there is currently no process in place, legislative or otherwise, to tackle it on a European level.

"We are at the mercy of unreasonable and disproportionate strike action, and our passengers lose out."

The PwC study was based on 213 days of disruption, taking into account the days before strikes when flights were cancelled in advance and the days after when there were knock-on delays.

Hundreds of flights to, from or over France were cancelled on Tuesday due to the country's 12th ATC strike in the past 13 weeks.

The cancellations included 166 by Ryanair and 56 by easyJet, while further flights were delayed.

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