Ryanair cancels 420 flights as French air traffic controllers go on strike


  • Ryanair Boeing 737

    IATA/ICAO code:

    Airline type:
    low cost carrier

    Dublin Airport, London Stansted Airport, Milan Bergamo Airport

    Year of foundation:

    Air group:
    Ryanair Group

    Eddie Wilson


Nearly 80,000 passengers originally scheduled to fly with Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair on September 16 will be disappointed as the airline cancels around 420 flights. Unfortunately, the cancellation is beyond Ryanair’s control as an air traffic control strike in France will limit overflights and affect many short and medium haul flights.

As flying in French airspace becomes a difficult option on Friday, Ryanair Chief Operating Officer Neal McMahon commented:

“It is inexcusable that thousands of European citizens and visitors are having their travel plans unfairly disrupted. It is inexcusable that passengers not flying to or from France are being disrupted.”

Anticipating a Serious Disruption

On Tuesday, the SNCTA union, the main group representing air traffic controllers, declared its intention to carry out an industrial walkout on Friday in a dispute over inadequate wages and poor working conditions. Anticipating serious disruption, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGAC) on Friday asked airlines to cancel half of all their flights in and out of France and recommended that passengers postpone their plans. of travel.


The strike is expected to last from Friday to Saturday at 06:00, although it is highly likely that weekend flights will also be disrupted as airlines deal with the ripple effects. Unfortunately, the two-day strike will not be the last for French air traffic controllers, and airlines and passengers could expect even more disruption towards the end of this month. Three additional strike days were also announced by the SNCTA, from September 28 to 30.

Although the extent of the chaos of those days is not yet known, the two-day strike that unfolded on Friday has already caused the cancellation of 1,000 flights. Ryanair counting only 420 flights and approximately 80,000 passengers for these two days, the low-cost company will inevitably withdraw even more flights to the detriment perhaps of at least 100,000 passengers for the three days.

Passengers are angry

Although cancellations are technically out of Ryanair’s control, as the strikes are led by French air traffic controllers, passengers were unhappy with the last minute cancellation notices. For affected passengers, notifications only arrived on Thursday and, allegedly, no mention of a changed flight, compensation and customer service hotlines were fruitful.

What angered passengers even more was that the union had warned of the impending strike on Tuesday, while Ryanair had only informed affected passengers on Thursday. From their point of view, the low-cost carrier had ample time to inform them earlier and could have offered alternatives or a possible rebooking option. However, Ryanair would not have provided any help and could only have said that it was all due to the strike by French air traffic controllers, nothing more.

Ryanair strikes back

Despite passenger dissatisfaction, Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary stressed that such disruptions are still not the fault of his budget carrier. The irony is that Ryanair is no stranger to industrial walkouts, having seen its operations relatively disrupted in recent months due to its employee strikes.

Yet on the contrary, O’Leary pointed out that Ryanair has made the sensible decision to work with unions and remains fully equipped this year while operating at 115% of pre-pandemic capacity. According to him, any operational disruption caused must be blamed on Ryanair, as he said:

“Unprecedented delays from ATC and airport management are disrupting our business, our schedules and our customers, but we remain confident that we can operate nearly 100% of our scheduled flights while minimizing delays and disruptions to our clients and their families.”

Ryanair also believes that proactive action is needed to prevent problems from occurring too frequently, if at all. The Irish carrier proposes three measures to the European Union to mitigate the impact of the strikes:

  1. Demand that French air traffic control unions engage in binding arbitration instead of strikes
  2. Protect French overflights under minimum service laws
  3. Authorize other European air traffic controllers to manage overflights of France during the strike of French air traffic control unions

Ryanair normally operates over 3,000 flights a day. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | single flight

At the end of the line

It seems understandable that Ryanair only informed affected passengers the day before, as it could take the low-cost carrier around a day or two to reschedule its schedules and roster. However, it would have been more appropriately responsible if Ryanair had offered possible rebooking options over passenger complaints that no data was given.

And while strikes are somewhat inevitable in a recovering industry, a few measures by Ryanair make sense and could help mitigate the consequences of future strikes. Let’s hope that the competent authorities will do something before the end of the month approaches more quickly. Otherwise, even more passengers would face another round of unfortunate last-minute cancellations.

Source: Reuters


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