Ryanair, in another bid to “protect overflights and EU citizens’ freedom of movement” has called for urgent action by the European Commission, particularly President Ursula von der Leyen, when it comes to air traffic control (ATC) strikes.

The matter of concern is another episode of travel disruptions amid one of the busiest periods of the year, caused by ATC strikes in France. Ryanair explained that it takes no issue with the strikes themselves. However, in France, ATC strikes impact air travel at airports around France, as well as ‘overflights’, meaning using French airspace to travel to and from a specific destination.

On Monday (yesterday), unionised air traffic controllers staged a 24-hour strike in light of new laws in France requiring individual workers to give a minimum of two days’ notice if they plan to join any strike action. This law is already being enforced by employees of SNCF national railways and Paris’s public transport operator RATP.

Prior to the introduction of the new laws, ATCs who were planning on striking did not have any obligation to inform their superior. However, unions that represent them had to issue industrial action notices in advance.

The intention behind the law was to create less disruptions for traveling passengers by giving the employers time to create temporary timetables based on the number of staff who will be available.

Additionally, it allows the French Civil Aviation Authority DGAC, the authority that orders airlines to cancel flights when strikes are planned, to foresee how it can run the situation in a smoother matter.

In this case, Ryanair is pleading with the European Commission to take immediate action to protect overflights and EU citizens’ freedom of movement during repeated ATC strikes.

Yesterday’s strike marked the 67th airstrike in 2023, 13 more than were held last year. This has forced airlines to cancel thousands of EU overflights from Germany, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and the UK, while France uses Minimum Service Laws to protect French local flights. “This is unfair, France (and all other EU states) should protect overflights during ATC strikes as they do in Spain, Italy and Greece and cancel flights to/from the affected state,” said Ryanair.

The airline is stating that the Commission continues to ignore over two million “fed-up EU passengers” who signed Ryanair’s “Protect Passengers: Keep EU Skies open” petition.

The petition is asking for the Commission to:

  • Respect the strike rights of ATC unions.

  • Protect 100 per cent of flights overflying strike-affected countries.

  • Require 21-day advance notice of ATC strikes.

  • Require 72-hour advance notice of participation in ATC strikes.

“EU passengers are sick and tired of suffering unnecessary overflight cancellations during ATC strikes… Ursula von der Leyen must immediately put a stop to this or answer to the two million passengers who she has failed to protect, by offering her resignation,” Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said.

He continued that it is “disgraceful” that Ms von der Leyen has failed to act on this petition, which Ryanair has delivered directly to the EU Commission offices in both May and September 2023.



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