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Airlines file legal complaints over French strikes

British Airways owner IAG, easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air have lodged legal challenges with the European Commission against France.

British Airways owner IAG are among four airlines who have filed legal complaints with the European Commission over air traffic control strikes they claim breach the “fundamental principle of freedom of movement within the EU”.

Ryanair and Hungarian-based no-frills airline Wizz Air have also lodged legal challenges with the Commission against France after its industrial action has caused tens of thousands of flights to be cancelled this year, impacting millions of passengers.

The co-ordinated action comes after the carriers have been calling on the Commission to end the disputes, claiming that France is breaking EU law by not enabling flights over the country during strikes.

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. Michael O'Leary, Ryanair chief executive

The air traffic control (ATC) strikes are costly for airlines and hugely disruptive for passengers, especially in France, as many UK flights need to use the country’s air space or fly longer routes to avoid it.

The airlines claim passengers overflying France are being denied their fundamental freedom to travel between member states not affected by strike action.

Willie Walsh, IAG’s chief executive, said: “The right to strike needs to be balanced against freedom of movement.

“It’s not only customers flying in and out of France who are affected during French ATC 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.

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

Ryanair and easyJet have laid bare the impact of the strikes in recent weeks, with around 2,000 flights cancelled between them both in June alone as a result of the action.

Luton-based easyJet revealed last week it had taken a £25 million hit from the disruption as it was forced to pay passengers compensation.

French ATC strikes have increased by 300% so far this year.

More than 16,000 flights were delayed in the first half of 2018 alone due to ATC strikes, affecting more than two million passengers, according to Eurocontrol figures.

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, said: “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.”

Johan Lundgren, easyJet’s chief executive, added: “We fully respect the right to strike and have been in constructive dialogue with the EU and the French government to address the issue of ATC strikes.

“Unfortunately, our passengers have felt little progress so far, which is why we felt it is necessary to take this next step – particularly given the sustained industrial action this year which has totalled 29 days to date.”

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