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Easyjet Cancels Flights Amid Potential Strike

An EasyJet A320 with Sharklets (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fabian Behr)

Easyjet, London’s Gatwick-based no-frills carrier, has announced that it will cancel 1,700 flights during the summer, in response to the potential strike from Union Syndicale Bruxelles (USB). It is expected 180,000 passengers could be affected, accordint to BBC.

USB is a union representing staff at Eurocontrol, which manages air traffic across Europe. The union is in dispute with management over the recruitment, management and rosters, giving a notice of a potential strike in the next six months. But USB stated the industrial action could take place with only a five-day notice.

However, Eurocontrol said there is no notice of specific industrial action and the firm dates have been received from the union, mentioning “it was making every effort to keep negotiations open and to find a constructive way forward.”

The shortage of air traffic control staff is becoming all too familiar. The union claimed Eurocontrol’s Network Manager Operations Centre (NMOC), which plays a key role in navigating the aircraft across Europe, has suffered from a 25% staff shortage and called for more workers to be hired.

The European airspace is being constricted after the invasion of Ukraine last year. The potential strike could put an additional strain on the airlines. Eurocontrol recently sounded the alarm that the demand from the airlines “might get close to capacity” for air traffic control in large parts of Europe, including London, Brussels and Madrid.

Most of Affected Passengers Rescheduled

Easyjet said 95% of the affected passengers have been rescheduled. It is understood that dozens of flights to and from Gatwick were cancelled over the weekend.

“As Eurocontrol has stated, the whole industry is seeing challenging conditions this summer with more constrained airspace due to war in Ukraine resulting in unprecedented air traffic control (ATC) delays, as well as further potential ATC strike action,” A spokesperson of Easyjet said to The Guardian.

Stewart Wingate, Gatwick’s chief executive, said the strikes could be the airport’s biggest headache this summer. Last month, France’s Civil Aviation Authority demanded airlines to scale back flights to and from France. Wingate said the strike often on short notice and it could make for knock-on problems for operations in London.

Ryanair cancelled more than 900 flights across Europe in June, about 1% of its operation, as a result of the strike in France, with air traffic controllers taking 60 days of industrial action thus far in 2023.

The USB strike could be the tip of the iceberg. Meanwhile, airlines across Europe could face another setback, with air traffic controllers in Italy set to walk out on July 15.

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