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Ryanair Pushes for Overflight Protections Amid French ATC Strikes

Ryanair's Argues for Passenger Rights Amidst Growing ATC Strike Disruptions

A Ryanair 737-800 at Marrakesh Menara Airport in Morocco. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

The aviation industry in Europe is currently experiencing widespread strikes due to staff shortages, disruptions, and poor working conditions, aggravated by the cost of living crisis.

Workers at various airports and airlines are striking for better wages and working conditions. Notable strikes include baggage carousel workers at London Heathrow, a nationwide strike in France, ground handler strikes in Spain, and concerns among Virgin Atlantic pilots about fatigue and wellbeing, which may lead to industrial action. Additionally, easyJet has canceled 1,700 flights due to labor problems, affecting over 180,000 passengers.

In a recent statement, Ryanair, Europe’s leading airline, has once again called upon Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the EU Commission, to take immediate action to safeguard overflights and the freedom of movement for EU citizens during Air Traffic Control (ATC) strikes. Ryanair has been at the forefront of calling for ATC reform for years.

Following an unprecedented 64 days of air traffic control (ATC) strikes in 2023, which significantly exceeded the number of strikes from the previous year, a plea was issued to the EU Commission for a concrete response to the situation. The strikes had a major impact on the aviation industry and caused significant disruptions to air travel across the affected regions. The appeal was made with the hope that the EU Commission would take action to address the underlying issues and prevent similar disruptions from occurring in the future.

A Ryanair 737 descends into Milan.
(Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fabian Behr)

The last major ATC strike happened in France on October 13. According to the French civil aviation authority, air traffic controllers at Paris-Orly, Marseille-Provence, and Beauvais airports joined the strikes.

The series of ATC strikes in 2023 has led to thousands of cancellations for EU overflights departing from Germany, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and the UK, causing unwarranted disruptions to passengers. These strikes have exposed a stark disparity, as France employs Minimum Service Laws to protect its flights during ATC strikes, while other EU states like Spain, Italy, and Greece save overflights and cancel flights to and from the affected state.

Since initiating the “Protect Overflights: Keep EU Skies Open” petition last March, Ryanair as garnered over 1.8 million signatures demanding action to protect overflights and the freedom of movement during recurring ATC strikes. Regarding the latest French ATC strike, the Irish airline stated that it acknowledges the right of French ATC unions to strike but insists cancellations resulting from national French strikes should impact French flights rather than those overflying France on their way to other EU destinations.

Ryanair’s critical demands to the EU Commission are a mandate of a 21-day advance notice of ATC strikes and a 72-hour advance notice of participation in ATC strikes. Despite this substantial public outcry, the EU Commission has yet to take tangible measures to prevent EU passengers from enduring last-minute flight cancellations caused by ATC strikes.

Vincenzo Claudio Piscopo
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  • Vincenzo Claudio Piscopo

    Vincenzo graduated in 2019 in Mechanical Engineering with an aeronautical curriculum, focusing his thesis on Human Factors in aircraft maintenance. In 2022 he pursued his master's degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Palermo, Italy. He combines his journalistic activities with his work as a Reliability Engineer at Zetalab.

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