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Mass cancellations loom despite French air union cancelling strike

The main air traffic controllers union cancelled the strike call
The main air traffic controllers union cancelled the strike call - Copyright AFP Antonin UTZ
The main air traffic controllers union cancelled the strike call - Copyright AFP Antonin UTZ

Hundreds of flights were cancelled at French airports Thursday despite the country’s main air traffic controllers’ union dropping a call for a one-day strike after making a deal for higher pay.

In Paris around 75 percent of flights at Orly and 55 percent at Charles de Gaulle airport will be dropped Thursday, the DGAC civil aviation authority told airlines in a notification seen by AFP on Wednesday.

Around 65 percent of services at Marseille airport and 45 percent elsewhere in France will also be cancelled, it added. The impact is expected to be similar to the cancellations expected when the strike was still going ahead.

Earlier Wednesday, the SNCTA union walked back a strike call, saying it had struck a deal for higher pay and other measures with the DGAC.

The union’s demands had come in response to a planned overhaul of French air-traffic control systems.

The DGAC said that despite the strike’s cancellation, the last-minute deal with the SNCTA and the need to finalise details with smaller unions meant there would still be disruptions.

It was unclear whether the two smaller unions which had also backed strike action would follow suit and call off the stoppage.

– ‘Totally unacceptable’ –

With details unclear, European carriers complained of extensive disturbances to air travel — even for flights that had planned to simply fly over France.

“While the withdrawing of strike notice may offer some relief for some passengers, its last-minute nature means that there will still be significant disruption to flights in France and across parts of Europe tomorrow,” said Ourania Georgoutsakou, the managing director of Airlines for Europe (A4E), an industry association.

Ahead of the strike, airlines had been forced to cancel more than 2,000 flights, most of which would have landed or departed from France. Another 1,000 flights would have had to divert away from French air space, A4E said.

German carrier Lufthansa and low-cost airline easyJet warned that their passengers flights over French air space could be affected on Thursday.

“The scale of disturbances caused by this strike movement and the impact it is having on our clients are totally unacceptable, in particular for the hundreds of thousands of clients whose flights will not take off from or land in France,” said easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren.

Unions had called the strike after an initial breakdown of talks, raising new concerns over the risk of action during the Olympic Games in Paris from late July, when millions of visitors are expected.

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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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