“Almost 100 percent” of air traffic controllers have downed tools to protest plans to unify EU airspace, according to France’s DGAC aviation authority. Hundreds of flights were hit, with a rail strike next for France.
France’s main hubs in Paris, Orly and Charles de Gaulle, were the worst hit by the second day of an air traffic controller’s strike, followed by Nice’s airport – the largest on the French Riviera.
The DGAC civilian aviation authority said on Wednesday that because of an “exceptional strike action followed by almost 100 percent of air traffic controllers,” more flights were affected than previously thought. After 1,800 flights were cancelled on Tuesday, a similar tally was automatically struck from Wednesday’s lists – though afternoon reports suggested that even more planes were affected on the second day.
Some smaller regional airports like Montpellier, Perpignan and Figari on Corsica closed their doors altogether.
The air traffic controllers were protesting EU plans to unify the bloc’s airspace. Brussels asserts that the changes will increase efficiency, reduce pollution and improve safety. Individual aviation authorities including the French counter that it will lead to job losses and worse working conditions.
After the French government officially asked Brussels to review its plans, the country’s unions agreed to scrap a third day of strikes scheduled for Thursday. This was a particular relief to the country’s travel infrastructure because of a major rail service strike scheduled to peak on the same day that is liable to affect about half of French trains.
High-speed international links with Germany, Belgium and the UK were expected to avoid the strike’s fallout, though services to Switzerland and Italy would face some cancellations. The majority of the disruptions were likely to take place on domestic services, including key commuter trains in and around the capital Paris and the city’s airports.
President Francois Hollande’s government plans to unify two companies, rail operator SNCF and the RFF firm that maintains French train tracks. Trade unions have resisted the proposals, though the two companies’ executives have welcomed them.