‘A breach of free movement’: EasyJet to complain to EU about French air traffic control strikes

EasyJet is set to become the latest airline to officially complain to the EU about the disruption caused by so may air traffic control strikes in France. The airline says the strikes breach the EU's principle of freedom of movement.

'A breach of free movement': EasyJet to complain to EU about French air traffic control strikes

EasyJet's director general Johan Lundgren said on Wednesday he believed the disruption caused by air traffic control strikes and bad weather combined cost the company €25 million in the third quarter to June 30th.

That figure was due to the fact 2,606 flights were cancelled in the same period.

Lundgren said the repeated strikes by controllers in France “significantly impacting its operational performance and was pushing up costs.”

The easyJet chief denounced the strikers for violating one of the “four freedoms” of the EU – that of the freedom of movement of its people.

He said: “Disruption this year so far has been equivalent to all of 2017, which has been challenging, and we estimate this will not go away.”

The statement by EasyJet follows similar moves by Ryanair and British Airways owner IAG who want the EU to force France to do more to tackle repeated strikes by air traffic controllers which have led to more than 750,000 passengers having flights cancelled since the start of this year.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said 2018 was on course to be the worst year ever for controller strikes, with 28 days lost already.
The vast majority of passengers hit by delays and cancellations due to the French strikes are not flying to or from France but travelling on routes which pass through the country's air space.
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said he believed the French government was failing to uphold passengers' right to free movement, which is enshrined in EU law, by not tackling the repeated strikes.
A recent French senate report 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.
But the European Commission, the bloc's powerful executive arm, defended workers' “fundamental right” to go on strike and said they hoped “non-binding and non-legislative” guidelines would solve the problem.
“The commission is not questioning the right to strike, which is a fundamental right of workers,” spokesman Enrico Brivio told reporters.
“The commission has proposed non-binding and non-legislative best practices,” Brivio said.
The measures include early notification of strike action and protection of overflights.

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French minister to grill Ryanair on safety claims

France's transport minister said this week, he will be seeking "clarification" from low-cost Irish airline Ryanair over "concerning" safety allegations made in a documentary this week by a pilot, who has since been fired by the company.

French minister to grill Ryanair on safety claims
Photo: Paulo Margari

Frederic Cuvillier said he was "determined to obtain the necessary clarifications on the veracity of the allegations that pilots are discouraged from reporting incidents".

On Monday, Britain's Channel 4 aired a programme in which some of Ryanair's staff raised fears over its fuel policy and highlighted three occasions in which pilots called in emergency alerts because they were low on fuel.

Ryanair countered by saying it would sue the broadcaster for defamation, maintaining that bad weather was the cause of the incidents and that its aircraft fully complied with EU regulation.

The documentary cited a survey by a group called the Ryanair Pilot Group, which stated that 94 percent of its members wanted regulators to conduct an inquiry into the safety policies of the low-cost airline.

The survey was conducted in response to a memo sent by Ryanair to pilots which the RPG claims threatened disciplinary action if pilots did not submit their safety reports exclusively to Ryanair and/or the safety regulator.

"Such practices, if they are confirmed, are concerning and would be a violation of applicable rules," Cuvillier said in the statement.

Ryanair dismissed the survey a "fabrication" in a statement, and said the RPG was a front for the European Cockpit Association, a group of pilot trade unions active at its competitors.

The group behind the study "lacks any independence, objectivity or reliability" and did not have access to its more than 3,000 pilots.

Ryanair insisted the survey was part of ECA's 25-year battle to win union recognition at the airline.

All European carriers are obliged to follow security and safety regulations as set out by the European Aviation Safety Authority.

"Ryanair, like other companies, is subject to strict controls, which to this day have not revealed any particular breaches of regulations by this company," Cuvillier said

The budget airline, meanwhile, has fired Captain John Goss, a 27-year-veteran of the company, for "gross misconduct," it was announced on Thursday, after he appeared in Monday's documentary.

“We will not allow a Ryanair employee to defame our safety on national television just three weeks after he confirmed in writing to Ryanair that he had no concerns with safety," a statement from the Irish airline said.

"We look forward to correcting Mr Goss’s defamatory claims in court in due course," the statement added.