Europe 1 with AFP 16:40 p.m., March 29, 2023

On Wednesday, in the face of strikes by French air traffic controllers, several leading European airlines expressed their exasperation. According to them, these actions cost them dearly by causing delays and cancellations. To combat this, they called on the European Commission to intervene.

Several leading European airlines on Wednesday expressed their exasperation at strikes by French air traffic controllers that they say cost them dearly by causing delays and cancellations, and they called on the European Commission to intervene. "In the first three months of last year, there were three days of strike by French air traffic controllers. Since the beginning of the year, we are at 23. And it continues," said the boss of the "low cost" airline Ryanair, Michael O'Leary, on behalf of the association "Airlines for Europe" (A4E) meeting in symposium in Brussels.

Ryanair cancelled 240 flights last weekend

Air traffic controllers are participating in the challenge to the pension reform in France, forcing the administration to cancel part of the movements from or to the airports, but also to reduce the number of flights that can transit through the country's airspace. Given the geographical position of the France, these strikes have cascading effects on all European air traffic: "British going to Spain, Germans to Portugal, Irish to Italy," illustrated Michael O'Leary.

>> READ ALSO - Fuel shortages: serious concerns about kerosene at Paris airports

Last weekend alone, "Ryanair was forced to cancel 240 flights, or 41,000 passengers, because French air traffic control did not allow us to fly over the France," O'Leary said. Some 400,000 low-cost passengers suffered a delay, he said. "We are very seriously affected, and we do not see when this (the strike) will stop," added Johan Lundgren, boss of another low cost, Easyjet, also at A4E.

Compensate passengers in case of major delays or cancellations

European regulations require airlines to compensate passengers in the event of major delays or cancellations, said the head of Ryanair, the largest European airline by number of passengers. "But we are not allowed to recover these sums from the people who cause these delays or cancellations, the French air traffic controllers, who enjoy immunity from their government," complained the boss of the airline.

>> READ ALSO - Garbage cans, demonstrations, breakages... The impact of the protest on tourism in France

A4E, which brings together 16 airlines or airline groups, including Air France-KLM, Lufthansa and IAG (British Airways, Iberia ...), asks the European Commission to impose overflight protection in the event of a strike by air traffic controllers, a measure that already exists for example in Italy, according to Michael O'Leary. More broadly, for the coming summer season, airlines, which are facing reinvigorated demand after Covid-19, have expressed concern about a saturation of European airspace, already weakened by closures related to the war in Ukraine.