French Flights Disrupted as Air Traffic Controllers Protest

Flights into France were disrupted for a second consecutive day as air traffic controllers strike in protest of planned changes to national airspace oversight.

Employees are set to return to their posts tomorrow morning, after their action led to 1,800 cancellations to Paris and other French cities yesterday and a similar number today. Deutsche Lufthansa AG scrapped 92 services today, most of them into France, down from 171 yesterday, while Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest discount airline, canceled 250 flights.

Controllers are striking as they oppose plans by European Union regulators to expand their powers in a bid to lower air-traffic charges and shorten flight routes in the bloc, challenging national controllers.

“This is wrong,” Tony Tyler, director general of the International Air Transport Association, said in an interview in Istanbul today. “This is a misguided attempt to preventing efficiencies that are being brought about for a single European sky.”

Air France SA has said it is transporting all long-haul passengers by reducing frequencies to key destinations such as New York. Carriers on other long-distance routes also felt the fallout. Etihad Airways PJSC, which normally flies twice daily to Paris, canceled one voyage both yesterday and today, with plans to resume full service tomorrow.

Qatar Airways Ltd., which serves Paris three times daily, scrapped one flight for yesterday, today and tomorrow. Emirates canceled one of two flights into Paris today and said it accommodated passengers affected on other services.

EasyJet said it canceled 128 services into French airports, of which 66 are flights originating in the U.K.

The protest is the first since 2010, when some flight controllers joined a campaign against changes in French pension rules. The last strike triggered by controller complaints occurred in February 2008, when union members staged a four-day walk-out over changed responsibilities for some areas.