70% of flights cancelled: French airports set for severe travel disruption amid workers’ strike

Flights that need to enter French airspace may also be affected – even if they do not take off or land in the country.

  • Air traffic controllers in France are planning to strike on Thursday 25 April.
  • Workers are protesting the restructuring of their services.
  • French airports and international flights face disruption during the walkout.

Staff have until Tuesday to announce whether they will be involved in the walkout, but it is thought that it could affect up to 70 per cent of flights at major airports.

A ‘black day’ for French airports

France’s largest air traffic controllers union has filed a strike notice for this Thursday.

The SNCTA, which represents over 60 per cent of France’s air traffic controllers, told the French press earlier this week that they expected a “record turnout”.

The national press has dubbed the 25th a “journée noir” (black day) for French airports.

“People should expect major disruption and long delays,” a spokesperson for the SNCTA union told AFP.

Another union, UNSA-UTCAC, had also announced walkouts on Thursday.

French business newspaper Les Echos says the strike is expected to last for 24 hours. It also predicts that up to 70 per cent of flights in and out of French airports could be cancelled.

Workers have until the end of today to declare their participation in the strike. The French civil aviation authority will use the final total to determine how many flights will be grounded.

Flights that need to enter French airspace may also be affected – even if they do not take off or land in the country.

Why are French air traffic controllers striking?

Unions are objecting to the restructuring of air navigation services, a debate that has been ongoing for the last 15 months.

Air traffic authorities are overhauling work schedules to cope better with predicted increases in flight traffic.

Unions are demanding an accompanying rise in salaries and employee numbers.

SNTCA is seeking pay increases of 5.04 per cent per year in 2025, 2026 and 2027, as well as the doubling of their “special qualification allowance”.

The strikes come despite the agreed ‘Olympic truce’ to suspend industrial action until the end of the games.

Could strikes hit the Paris Olympics?

CGT-RATP union members also announced a seven-month strike notice from 5 February to 9 September that could hit the Ile-de-France bus and metro network – including during this summer’s Olympic Games.

However, the French Senate adopted a bill on 9 April to allow the state to ban transport strikes for set periods each year to avoid disruption during major events like Paris 2024.

It also calls for more advance warning of strikes and increased minimum service obligations.

The bill faces opposition and must be adopted by the French National Assembly before it becomes law.

Workers at the state-owned public transport company say they are walking out over pay.

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