Ryanair boss warns of travel chaos throughout April due to French air traffic control strikes

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File picture of queues at Heathrow Airport  (PA Wire)
File picture of queues at Heathrow Airport (PA Wire)

Holidaymakers face travel chaos throughout April due to French air traffic control strikes, the boss of Ryanair has warned.

Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said it was a “scandal” that strikes had blocked many flights over French airspace, causing disruption to other popular destinations.

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Speaking at an aviation conference in Brussels, Mr O’Leary said walkouts “will have a huge impact” for Brits hoping to get away over the Easter break.

In comments reported by the Telegraph, he said: “The French are going to get worse and worse for the next three and four months.

“People are really f****** p***** off with flights getting cancelled left, right and centre because the French are on strike. They’re not going to France, it’s the overflights that are taking all the cancellations.”

Under French law, there are minimum service levels for domestic flights and for long-haul flights going over French airspace - but not short-haul flights using French airspace.

It means a disproportionate number of cancellations for flights from Britain to destinations such as Spain.

A Ryanair plane (PA Wire)
A Ryanair plane (PA Wire)

The airline boss told the conference that French air traffic control had asked it to cancel 60 flights on Wednesday alone, and that they were asked to cancel 60 flights on Thursday.

He said it had also been informed of “the wonderful news that the daily French ATC [air traffic control] strikes will continue for the month of April. Daily.”

Ryanair has called upon the EU Commission to force Paris to introduce protections for short-haul flights using French airspace from disruption caused by air traffic control strikes.

Airlines have to compensate passengers for long delays or cancellations under European passenger laws but are unable to recover penalties from air traffic authorities when airspace is blocked, he told the A4E Aviation Summit in Brussels.

However, Mr O’Leary said airports were better prepared for delays this summer after widespread chaos last year.

It comes as more than 1,400 members of Unite working at Terminal Five at Heathrow are due to walk out for 10 days from Friday until Easter Sunday in a dispute over pay.

The union’s general secretary Sharon Graham said the action would disrupt flights if talks on Thursday fail to yield a settlement.

British Airways has said it expects to cancel up to 32 flights a day between March 31 and April 9 as a result of the action.

However, Heathrow Airport said an additional 1,000 workers would be deployed to help mitigate the effects of the ten-day strike.