European Union, EU, transport commissioner, Bulc, O'Leary, Walsh, ATC, striles, Europe, EU, France, Spain, complain, meeting
European Union

Rival airline bosses demand action over ATC strikes

The bosses of Ryanair and IAG march to Brussels to demand action to stop growing wave of air traffic control walkouts.

Two rival airline bosses have teamed up to demand that the European Commission take urgent action to address air traffic control strikes in Europe.

Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary and British Airways owner IAG’s Willie Walsh spoke to Europe’s transport commissioner Violeta Bulc yesterday to complain that not enough was being done to protect flights.

EU recalcitrance is “destroying” European air traffic, Walsh said, while O’Leary criticised the “lethargy and inaction” of the commission and national governments, the Financial Times and TTG report.

Passengers have faced a massive increase in the number of flight delays and cancellations over the past 12 months due to industrial action, particularly in France, which has a significant stake in European airspace.

O’Leary said last week that Europe’s air traffic control network was “on the verge of meltdown”, with Ryanair having to cancel a thousand flights in May alone – up from just 43 during the same month last year.

Citing official figures, he said that 117,000 European flights were delayed in May, 61% of which were due to ATC staff shortages and strikes. He added that 56,000 flights were delayed by more than 15 minutes, up from 14,000 during the same period in 2017.

“National pastime”
“Nothing will get in the way of the four freedoms, unless you’re a French air traffic controller,” O’Leary joked, saying that strikes are still a “national pastime” in France.

The European Commission reported last summer that since 2005 there have been 357 ATC strikes in the European Union, 254 of them in France. According to the commission, 5,000 flights were cancelled due to ATC strikes during the first five months of 2018.

Air traffic control staff in Spain are currently considering strikes over working hours, which could affect thousands of peak-period holiday flights in the coming weeks and months.

Related stories

New strike warning for Spain

French ATC causes third of delays in Europe

Europe’s aviation faces “serious capacity challenges”