French skies fall victim to air traffic controllers’ strike

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

French air traffic controllers’ strike hobbles sky

PARIS — Airlines have slashed flights in France as a strike by air traffic controllers fearful of a plan to unify European skies went into full force Wednesday.

The Civil Aviation Authority said the effects of the strike were blunted, however, after two unions dropped out of the action. It said Wednesday’s air traffic was “more fluid” than expected, with few delays.

The civil aviation authority had asked airlines to cancel one out of two flights at Orly airport, south of the French capital, and one out of five flights at Charles de Gaulle, the main Paris airport. While only 50 percent of flights at Orly were operating, 90 percent of flights were assured at Charles de Gaulle airport, civil aviation spokesman Eric Heraud said in a statement.

Sophie Rufin, of Meudon, outside Paris, was among the unhappy travelers at Orly. She said she booked her vacation flight six months ago, “and we don’t even know if we will be able to swap to another flight if ours is canceled.”

“Once again, we feel like the hostages of people whose status is full of privileges and who bother us quite a lot during our holidays,” she said in an interview with Associated Press Television News.

The strike, which began Tuesday night, went into full force Wednesday and was to last until around 6 a.m. (0400 GMT; Midnight EDT) Thursday.

National carrier Air France has said its long-haul flights aren’t affected.

Air traffic controllers fear that the Single European Sky concept meant to ensure greater efficiency and deal with projected traffic increases could cost jobs. Under the plan, the 27 separate air traffic systems now operating in the European Union would be reduced to nine hubs.

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