EasyJet and Ryanair cancel hundreds of flights due to French air strikes

Airline passengers set for travel chaos this weekend as EasyJet and Ryanair cancel more than 300 flights due to French air strikes

Ryanair and EasyJet have been forced to cancel hundreds of flights this weekend due to yet another wave of air strikes.

Air traffic controllers have announced industrial action at Marseille Airport on Saturday and Sunday.

As a result, EasyJet has had to cancel 208 flights passing through the air space while Ryanair has cut around 100 planned departures, with other airlines set to follow.

Both budget airlines told MailOnline Travel that affected travellers have been informed about the disruption. British Airways has not indicated any flight cancellations yet and say they plan to operate a normal schedule. 

They have also been warned to check flight trackers for ongoing updates.

These passengers will be able to transfer their flights free of charge or receive a refund.  

Ryanair and British Airways owner International Airlines Group said on Wednesday they will file a complaint to the EU over what they say is France‘s failure to tackle crippling strikes by air traffic controllers.

They say repeated strikes by French controllers, particularly in Marseille, are having a devastating impact on schedules, with more than 750,000 passengers having flights cancelled in the first five months of 2018 alone.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said passengers were being denied their right to free movement, which is enshrined in EU law.

‘Both Ryanair and IAG plan to submit a complaint to the European Commission which will be against the French government because we believe that the French government is not adequately protecting the rights of Europeans to free movement,‘ Walsh told a news conference in Brussels.

The overwhelming majority of passengers affected are not flying to or from France, he said, but travelling on routes which pass through French air space.

This means that if French controllers are on strike, their flights have to take longer routes to avoid flying through.

Michael O‘Leary, Ryanair‘s outspoken chief executive, said 2018 was on course to be the worst year ever for controller strikes, with 28 days lost already.

‘You can‘t have the freedom of movement if a couple of hundred air traffic controllers in Marseille are going to shut down the skies over Europe on a regular basis,‘ he told reporters. 

You can‘t have the freedom of movement if a couple of hundred air traffic controllers in Marseille are going to shut down the skies over Europe on a regular basis Ryanair chief executive, Michael O‘Leary

The Marseille control zone is a particular problem because it covers part of the western Mediterranean that many flights from Barcelona and the Balearic Islands – major tourist destinations – pass through.

Walsh and O‘Leary said they were disappointed at the lack of action from the European Commission, the bloc‘s powerful executive arm.

They called for air space above a certain height to be designated as European, so that planes flying over an area affected by a controller strike could be managed by authorities in neighbouring zones.

The suggestion was originally tabled by the commission, they said, but has not been acted on yet.

A French senate report this week said the country‘s air traffic control was responsible for a third of all aviation delays in Europe, according to Le Parisien newspaper.

Between 2004 and 2016, French air traffic controllers were on strike for 254 days, vastly outstripping their closest rival Greece, where there were 46 days of stoppages and Italy with 37, according to the report seen by the daily.