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Europe's strikes could spell more flights havoc into summer




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Strikes in Europe have caused a surge of flight cancellations and delays, as well as a drop in bookings for cities such Paris. This is despite the efforts made by airlines to prevent a repeat of disruptions from last year.

AirHelp, a flight claim management company, says that the number of flights cancelled and delayed by more than three hours over Easter weekend in Europe was up from 2022 to 2019 and most notably in France and Britain.

The situation rapidly deteriorated, as France sank into the pension crisis. Charles de Gaulle Airport is negatively affected as both a destination as well as hub, said Olivier Ponti VP of Insights, at travel data company ForwardKeys.

Airhelp data provided shows that in France, where the air traffic control staff went on strike recently, only 62% of flights arrived on time. This compares with 75% for 2022 and 76% for 2019 before the pandemic halted international travel.

This year's Easter saw 33,300 cancellations, compared to 7,800 the year before. 9,000 flights experienced delays of more than 3 hours, as compared to 6,800 in 2011.

According to ForwardKeys, transfers and planned stays at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris had dropped by 75% by mid-March compared to levels of 2019.

The strike at the Paris airport operator Aeroports de Paris, (ADP.PA), caused a loss of around 470,000 passengers from January to March.

AirHelp reports that border strikes in Britain also disrupted airports throughout the country. London airports were the most affected.


In 2019, 81% of flights arrived on time. This compares to 76% in 2020 and 76% in 2019. 33,700 cancelled flights were recorded, compared to 26,600 in 2018. 10,800 flights were delayed more than three-hours, a significant increase from 9,500 flights last year.


Some CEOs have called on the European Commission to act in response to ongoing disruptions caused by prolonged labour strife.

The Easter holiday this year was seen as an important test for the industry to be able to cope with the increase in travellers following the addition of staff.

There is a concern that continued strikes could lead to a drop in tourism, which was expected to return to its pre-pandemic level this summer.

ForwardKeys reported that tickets from Europe to Charles de Gaulle Airport fell by 30% in comparison to 2019. However, they only dropped by 8% for those from the United States during the week ending March 16.

Strikes are likely to continue. The President Macron signed into law on Saturday a bill that was widely unpopular to increase the age of state pension. This angered unions who had called for a continuation of months-long mass protests that began in January.

Hamburg Airport in Germany has cancelled all departures for Thursday and Friday as a result of a strike called by the union Verdi.

The air traffic authority Eurocontrol warned previously that delays may continue well into the summer in the northern hemisphere, particularly if strikes continue.

Ryanair Chief executive Michael O'Leary stated last month that the French strikes that disrupted services between countries, including between Britain and Spain, was "a scandal".

According to European passenger rights regulations, airlines that face delays lasting several hours can claim compensation. This has long been a source of frustration for airlines who are struggling to make ends meet.

The airlines say that airports, as well as other stakeholders, should also contribute to compensation for consumers. This way the burden won't be entirely on them.

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