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French air traffic hit by controllers' strike, 50% flights cancelled Thursday

An Air France plane at Charles-de-Gaulle airport on 8 April
An Air France plane at Charles-de-Gaulle airport on 8 April Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

About 50 per cent of flights in and out of French airports were to be cancelled on Thursday,after 40 per cent on Wednesday, due to a two-day strike by air-traffic controllers. Unions have called further strikes on 16-18 April and 29 April-2 May.


Air traffic authorities said that the number of cancellations was as expected on Wednesday morning, although they warned that there might be slight delays at Paris's Charles-de-Gaulle and Orly airports.

But they upped the number of cancellations on Thursday to 50 per cent.

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About a third of flights were cancelled at airports in Nice, Lyon and Marseille, while Toulouse and Montpellier were worse hit at 53 per cent and 78 per cent respectively.

The dispute has had little effect on the traffic to the Mediterranean island of Corsica.

Ahead of the strike Air France warned of "very severe disruption" and its low-cost arm, HOP!, had cancelled two-thirds of flights out of Paris Orly. Irish operator Ryanair said it had scrapped more than 250 flights.

The controllers' main union, the SNCTA, has demanded talks on their specific working conditions, particularly on work organisation and a proposed raise in retirement age from 57 to 59 years old.

The first strike was initially planned for the end of last month but postponed it due to the crash of the Germanwings A320 in the French Alps.

The FNAM aviation association strongly criticised the strike, saying it would "essentially penalise French-based airlines and their sub-contractors."

Transport Minister Alain Vidalies "regretted" that the union had chosen to call for strike action and noted that a meeting was due to take place on 13 April to discuss the specific working practices in the sector.


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