European Airlines Are Fed Up With ATC Strikes, Politicians Called Upon To Take Immediate Action

The latest week-long walkout of French Air Traffic Controllers, one in a series of many, has caused a record-breaking 1,500 flight cancellations, costing airlines many million euros, leaving passengers and cargo consignments stranded. Now, the ‘Airlines for Europe’ group (A4E) has started mobilizing the public, asking travelers to raise their voices to stop controllers from striking further.
Air travelers can unite and let out their frustration about the continuous disruptions by supporting the petition ‘Keep Europe’s Skies open’, reads an A4E appeal to the public in general. The latest initiative of the 14 partnering A4E carriers must be understood as a kind of a mayday call, asking both the EU Commission and the national regulators to do their utmost to stop or at least limit industrial actions initiated by national air traffic controllers.

ATC unions act as job killers
The repeated strikes are extremely harmful, as A4E data indicate, leading to revenue losses of 6 percent and a 35 percent decrease in European carrier’s productivity. Without these permanent walkouts caused by a privileged group of well-paid controllers, up to 140,000 additional jobs could have been created in Europe’s aviation sector from 2010 until today, emphasized Ryanair’s Chief Michael O’Leary at the latest A4E meet on 13 February in Brussels.
On the occasion, IAG CEO Willie Walsh pronounced that “it’s time to end holding millions of people to ransom” caused by ATC strikes. The fast settling of this annoying topic “must become the number one issue standing on the EU aviation agenda,” demanded the manager at A4E’s Brussels get-together.

Own selfishness comes first
Warning words, but without producing an audible echo. Evidenced by the latest week-long strike of French ATC personnel, resulting in record-breaking 1,500 flight cancellations and 5,300 hours of delays. The controller’s strike has forced airlines to reduce their fights in France by 25%, not only affecting those serving one of the French’s airports, but also services overflying France, including links from the UK and Italy, Switzerland and Spain. Airlines had to fly detours of hundreds of kilometers to avoid French airspace while adjacent airspace had to be regulated as well as a consequence of additional traffic refiling to avoid the high delays due to industrial action, states A4E in their stern rebuke.

A4E Managing Director Thomas Reynaert  hopes that many will support the petition  -  courtesy A4E
A4E Managing Director Thomas Reynaert hopes that many will support the petition - courtesy A4E

To hopefully end this disruptive annoyance, the A4E members have launched an online petition last weekend to help put an end to the strike actions of a rather small but influential group of Air Traffic Control unions. Their initiative can also be interpreted as cry of despair since all appeals to European policy makers and national regulators to intervene in the ATC practices has led nowhere.

A4E gets increasingly impatient
“We cannot wait anymore - European and French policy-makers need to implement measures capable of minimizing Air Traffic Management disruption’s impact on passengers. Political, operational and technological solutions exist for a problem that affects the entire continent. These solutions would allow to limit the impact of such strikes on travelers and business, without questioning controllers’ fundamental right to strike,” said Thomas Reynaert, Managing Director of A4E.

Italian ATC is in the starting blocks
In case nothing happens on the political stage while regulators keeping on shying away from developing a binding framework for future ATC strikes, including arbitration procedures, the European Union’s reputation is at stake, warns A4E. It should be noted that passenger frustrations tend to mount even further.
In the meantime, Italian Air Traffic Controllers, obviously motivated by their French colleagues and remaining deaf to all appeals, are preparing strike actions beginning on 20 March.

Heiner Siegmund


A4E’s petition can be signed under

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