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French strike forces Ryanair to cancel more than 300 flights across Europe



Ryanair has demanded that the EU reform its skies after the airline was forced to cancel more than 300 flights across Europe scheduled for Thursday because of a strike by French air traffic controllers.

The cancellations come in spite of the withdrawal of strike action by one of the biggest unions, the SNCTA, which came too late to avoid disruption after France’s civil aviation authority asked airlines to cut flights.

Ryanair said 50,000 of its passengers would be affected because of France’s failure to protect overflights – where planes fly over the country without landing there – during industrial action.

It said most of the disrupted passengers would be simply flying over French airspace en route to the likes of Greece or Spain.

The airline called on the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, to take action to protect overflights by law during air traffic control strikes, to allow Europe’s other controllers to manage flights over France during the strikes, and limit the power of unions to call strikes immediately.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “French air traffic controllers are free to go on strike, that’s their right, but we should be cancelling French flights, not flights leaving Ireland, going to Italy, or flights from Germany to Spain or Scandinavia to Portugal.

“The European Commission under Ursula von der Leyen has failed for five years to take any action to protect overflights and the single market for air travel. We’re again calling on her to take action to protect overflights which will eliminate over 90% of these flight cancellations.”

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Despite the French strike this week, O’Leary said he believed air travellers would see significantly less disruption over summer 2024 than during the past two years, when labour shortages and strikes limited capacity.

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