Half of French flights to be scrapped on Thursday

UPDATED: French aviation authorities have asked airlines to cancel 50 percent of flights to and from France on Thursday on what will be the second day of a 48-hour air traffic control strike. The Local has the latest updates for passengers.

Half of French flights to be scrapped on Thursday
Nice airport in southern France was left mostly empty on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

LATEST info: 

Hundreds of flights to and from France were cancelled Wednesday as air traffic controllers launched a two-day strike over working conditions and the situation was due to worsen on Thursday.
The civil aviation authority had asked airlines to scrap around 40 percent of flights, warning of "disruption across the whole country", and it called on companies to increase cancellations to about 50 percent on Thursday.
Flag carrier Air France warned of "very severe disruption" to its flight schedule. Although it pledged to operate "almost all" long-haul flights, medium and short-haul services would be badly affected, it said.
"Last-minute delays and cancellations can also be expected," the airline added.
Low-cost operator Ryanair said it had been forced to cancel more than 250 flights due to the industrial action.
"It's grossly unfair that thousands of European travellers will once again have their travel plans disrupted by the selfish actions of a tiny number of French… workers," the Irish airline fumed.
Competitor easyJet said it had been forced to scrap 160 flights and added it was cancelling 190 on Thursday.
There were average delays of 30 minutes at the main Paris airport, Charles de Gaulle and 300 flights out of 700 were scrapped at the secondary airport of Orly.
On the whole, though, passengers had been warned well in advance and seemed to have made other plans.
"The companies have done what was needed. For the moment, there are no difficulties," one airport source said.
"There are a few people complaining, but no large-scale discontent," added this source, who did not wish to be named.
However, not everyone had been tipped off.
"We weren't warned," said frustrated tourist Audrey Trivel at the desk of Portuguese carrier TAP Portugal.
Instead of a direct flight to Madeira with her family, she was staring down the barrel of a "grand tour" of Europe, via Geneva and Frankfurt.
– 'Meeting after meeting' –
The strike was called by the main air traffic union SNCTA, which wants talks over the working conditions of its members.
A particular bone of contention is the pushing back of the retirement age for air traffic controllers from 57 to 59.
The union insists that for the past 10 years, talks over working conditions have taken place outside the formal structure for union-management negotiations.
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 April 13th to discuss working practices in the sector.
"We'll see what we're offered," SNCTA head Roger Rousseau told AFP.
"Since 2013, we've been taken for a ride meeting after meeting," he said.
He added he "hoped to find a way out" without resorting to strike action, which he said was the only way to "make ourselves heard."
The SNCTA had originally called the strike from March 25 to 27 but scrapped it after the Germanwings crash in the French Alps that killed 150.
Further industrial action is planned from April 16th to 18th and from April 29th to May 2nd, key holiday periods.

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French customs officers strike over job cuts

Customs officers across France will walk out on Thursday in protest at job cuts that unions say will “weaken the customs network”.

French customs officers strike over job cuts

The national strike on Thursday, March 10th is expected to lead to delays at ports, airports and on the Eurostar.

The strike, which will include a rally outside the National Assembly building in Paris, was called by the CFDT-Douane and has the support of other unions. 

A work-to-rule protest over pay and conditions by customs officers in 2019, under the shadow of Brexit, led to delays and disruption at airports, as well as ports including Calais and Dunkirk, and on Eurostar trains.

Unions are calling on the government to axe plans to switch responsibility for import duty collection to the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques by 2024, at the cost of 700 customs’ officer jobs – and, according to strikers, tens of billions of euros to State coffers.

“We are asking for the reforms to be stopped, mainly that of the transfer of taxation, which is disorganising the network with the elimination of nearly a thousand jobs,” CFDT-Douane’s secretary general David-Olivier Caron said.

The planned job cuts come after years of restructuring and streamlining that has seen thousands of positions disappear, the unions say, when customs fraud and smuggling is rising because of a lack of resources.