What the French air traffic controllers' strike means for you

Paris airport today

French air traffic controllers have been protesting against plans to create a European air traffic control system. The idea is to create a single system so that there are no delays in passing air traffic from one country to another. However, air traffic controllers across Europe are concerned as to the effect it could have on their jobs, and the French went out on strike today in protest.

So what does it mean for UK passengers?


The strike has brought cancellations and delays to travellers connecting to all sorts of destinations. Flights to and from the south of France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Cyprus, Greece and North Africa have been hit.

A number of airlines cancelled flights. easyJet said that it had been asked to reduce its flights over France by 30%. It cancelled 56 flights across Europe - and said that 7,500 passengers would be affected. Ryanair cancelled over 80 flights, while British Airways cancelled two Heathrow flights - one to Marseille and one to Lyon.


There have also been disruptions. easyJet warned in advance that 60% of all its flights go through French air space, so the strike would hit many of them. It said in a statement: "The strike will also impact all flights that over-fly the affected French airspace."

Flights this afternoon to Luton airport were running with delays of as much as two-and-a-half hours. Meanwhile, between midday and 4pm every single departure was delayed - some more than two hours. Similarly in Stanstead the vast majority of arrivals and all departures this afternoon were delayed.

The strike is expected to end at 8pm, but the disruptions will have a knock-on effect on flights for a while to come, as planes will be out of position after cancelled flights.

So what are your rights if you are affected by the strike?

If your flight has been cancelled, the airlines will offer a refund or a switch to another flight for free. If you are at the airport when you learn of a late cancellation, you are entitled to phone calls and refreshments while you wait for your new flight. If you're stuck there overnight, you should get accommodation too.

If your flight is delayed for two hours or more you are entitled to free meals and two free phone calls or emails. This will cover most of the worst delays today. In the eventuality that the flight is delayed for more than five hours you are entitled to a refund and if you are delayed overnight you have the right to free accommodation.

You are unlikely to be able to claim compensation for any delays or cancellations, as strikes are usually classed as being beyond the airline's control. However, you may want to check your travel insurance policy as a few do cover strikes or civil unrest.
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