Ryanair and British Airways’ parent company IAG are planning to jointly submit a complaint to the European Union (EU) at the state of the air traffic control (ATC) system in Europe.
Both say the ATC system is “destroying air traffic and economies across the continent” – as hundreds more flights are set to be cancelled by Ryanair and easyJet this weekend.
In 2018, there has been a 300 per cent increase in ATC strikes in France compared to 2017. In Europe this year there has been 24 strike days which have caused 5,000 flight cancellations and thousands of delays, affecting millions of travellers.
The airlines say the projected EU economic impact amounts to €13.4 billion and this continues to grow. In May this year alone there was a four-fold increase in flight delays over 15 minutes in May 2018 (56,000) compared to May 2017 (14,000).
The IAG group also includes Iberia and Vueling, and chief executive, Willie Walsh (left) said the ATC strikes represent the “biggest challenge for our industry”. “They are destroying European air traffic and having a huge impact on consumers. It’s a really frustrating cause of disruption that affects all airlines but in particular has a significant negative impact on Spain’s tourism and economy.
“Continuous strikes by ATC staff in Marseille have a disproportionate impact on those airlines flying from Barcelona because they control flights over most of the Mediterranean airspace. For Vueling this means that 50 per cent of its flights are affected. The EU must act now to protect the rights of the consumers and prevent long term damage to European economies.”
According to Eurocontrol, 39,000 flights – around 30 per cent of the total en-route delays in May- were delayed due to ATC strikes. n addition, Eurocontrol projects total delay minutes for 2018 will be up by 53 per cent compared to 2017 as a result of strikes and capacity shortages (14.3 million in 2018 versus 9.3 million minutes in 2017).
Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary (below) said: “These disruptions are unacceptable, and we call on the Governments, and the EU Commission to take urgent and decisive action to ensure that ATC providers are fully staffed and that overflights are not affected when national strikes take place, as they repeatedly do in France.
“Europe’s ATC providers are approaching the point of meltdown with hundreds of flights being cancelled daily either because of ATC strikes or because Europe’s ATC don’t have enough staff. The situation is particularly acute at weekends where British and German ATC providers are hiding behind adverse weather and euphemisms such as “capacity restrictions” when the truth is they are not rostering enough ATC staff to cater for the number of flights that are scheduled to operate.
“Urgent action must now be taken by the UK and German Governments, and the EU Commission, otherwise thousands more flights and millions of passengers will be disrupted, particularly in the peak months of July and August, unless this ATC staffing crisis is addressed.”
IAG and Ryanair’s complaint will argue that by not adequately protecting flights over France, EU law is infringed.
Year-to-date, A4E member airlines have been forced to cancel nearly 5,000 flights as a result of the strikes, directly impacting around 784,000 passengers across Europe. In addition, millions of travellers have been affected by flight delays caused by airspace diversions and residual backups.
A4E managing director, Thomas Reynaert added: “We have been working constructively and quite intensively over the last several months with French government officials and Parliamentarians to establish a stable and long-term solution to these disruptions.
“In this context, we urge the French government to take decisive action to resolve this issue on behalf of all our passengers, ahead of this summer’s busy travel season.”