French ATC Going On Strike For Umpteenth Time…

Filed Under: Travel, Unions

While I understand the purpose of unions, I’ve never understood how repeated strikes end up happening so often. I’m not just blaming unionized employees, but also management — at some point there has to be some compromise which is less punitive than the cost of endless strikes. For example, for a while Lufthansa pilots were going on an average of one strike per month, costing the airline hundreds of millions of Euros.

In a similar boat are the French air traffic controllers, who are going on strike for a period of at least 36 hours starting at 7PM CET today, March 30, 2016. This will be the 43rd day on which French ATC is striking since 2009.

This particular strike doesn’t seem to impact all flights, and actually no flights to/from Charles de Gaulle are expected to be cancelled. Instead Air France has advised that all flights to/from Charles de Gaulle, including all longhaul flights, will operate as scheduled. Furthermore, 80% of flights from Paris Orly and 65% of flights from Marseille should operate.

Air-France-HOP-Business-Class - 30
Air France HOP EMB-190 Paris CDG Airport

Airlines For Europe is a trade group consisting of many of the major European airlines (Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, Norwegian, etc.), and they’re calling on the government to take action against these constant strikes. They’re claiming that the last two day strike (which was just last week) caused over 1,000 flight cancellations and 500,000 minutes of delays, with more than a million affected passengers. Here’s what they had to say:

This will be the 43rd strike day in France since 2009 and it will see hundreds of flights being cancelled creating disruption and extensive delays across the continent.

“Repeated and disproportionate industrial action by French ATC unions is seriously impacting the travel plans of thousands of passengers during Easter. It is unacceptable that airlines and their customers can be repeatedly punished by these unjustified strikes. We call on the European Commission to act immediately to defend consumers”, said Thomas Reynaert, Managing Director of A4E.

Last year, more than 10,000 flights operated by A4E members were affected by 28 days of ATC strikes in Europe causing unjustified disruptions to millions of passengers.

On the other end of the spectrum, here’s how Ronald Reagan handled strikes:

(Let me clarify that the above isn’t meant to be a political statement, but rather just a clip I found interesting of the time Ronald Reagan actually fired thousands of air traffic controllers back in the 80s when they went on strike.)

Bottom line

If you’re traveling through France in the next couple of days, be sure to check your flight status. While Air France has published approximate numbers of delays and cancellations, they haven’t indicated exactly which flights will be impacted. Also keep in mind that while flights out of CDG as such won’t be impacted by the strike, there could very well be spillover delays, given how many airports a plane can fly to in a given day.

Do you think air traffic controllers should be allowed to strike, or should that not be an option for those who work for the government and are tasked with an essential role, like ATC?

  1. I still choose Air France or Lufthansa over any US carrier when I travel to Europe . Agreed; they strike plenty but they still have a far better product . And I do not know about “they will run to America” for handouts. AA,United and Delta get plenty of “handouts” from the US government and agencies, make lots of profits and WE the customers get a sub-standard product.

  2. I forgot how dark the days were when Reagan was president.

    What an awful people he and his wife and their entire cabal were.

  3. It is worth noting that when Regan fired the controllers, their strike was illegal under Federal law. The EU however grants broad rights to virtually all union employees to strike at will. Only a legal change will end these selfish and disruptive actions.

  4. @JT

    This was not a copy and paste at all. It’s regarding the same topic so there will obviously be overlap. To be frank, TPG articles are normally posted well after plenty of other bloggers have already commented on whatever issue is being discussed.

  5. Thanks for this article.
    I would like to say that it’s not just ATC strike, it’s nation strike(to be honest, transports workers and unions members) against a futur work law.
    I’m french, and I know it’s not the first ATC strike but we deal with it 😉

  6. @JT

    I’m sorry but this is in no way copy-paste. Your article is about things to do with specific airlines while this article is about the strike in general so how could it be copy-paste?

  7. @JT – How is this copy-paste? Please state the lines which are the same in your post and this post.

  8. What’s stopping those guys from getting fired and hiring people who won’t hold ATC for ransom?

  9. The French strike all the time. Every time I have been in Paris some union or other was on strike. So this seems par for the course.

  10. Last ATC strike was only 2 weeks ago, had my NCE to PAR to BES 2x1hr flight arrive 9 hrs late !! even flight from CDG that wasn’t supposed to be affected was actually delayed by 5 hrs.
    Air France staff showed some goodwill, but were very disorganized by the strike.
    France is a socialist country and firing ATC is not an option ah ah.
    The right to go on strike in France is as sacred as cows are in India..
    Good luck to all who are travelling tomorrow 😉

  11. It is annoying. It is a minority holding the majority hostage in the name of a particular view of social justice. A couple of observations may explain this French way of doing things.

    It is cultural. Just read Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”.

    Some times (and I will admit very rarely) these strikes in the defence of “public service” do have the “public safety” in mind. A few years ago, the ATCs at Orly did strike for better equipment.

    The US has its own cultural traits. Consider the one that I read on this site: “I want to be able to take my kids out of school and travel during the off-season.” Consider the “Right to Work” fight that just got undecided by the Supreme Court. Consider the 1000-page procedure to fire a substandard teacher in the Los Angeles School District. American through and through.

    There is indeed a difference between the US and France. In the US, business exist primarily for economic reasons. In France, they exist primarily for social ones. So, while in the US there is an ongoing argument about Obama Care, in France there is an unbelievable frustration by the majority of the French people that a vocal minority can legally cause so much disruption. The former is the social interfering with the economy. The latter is the economy interfering with the social.

    Yes, France has its problems but it does not mean that all or even a substantial minority of French men and women support the strike. What one usual hears in the street when a strike happens, “Ah! Ces bandes de cons!” How perspicacious!

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