Thousands of summer holidays at risk after European air control staff announce strike

7 July 2023, 00:41

Around 12,000 strikes could be cancelled daily
Around 12,000 strikes could be cancelled daily. Picture: Getty/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

More than 12,000 flights could be cancelled across Europe every day this summer due to strikes by air traffic controllers.

Around a third of all European flights are set to be impacted after controllers at Eurocontrol - the European air traffic management body - announced plans to walkout.

It is not yet known the exact dates when the strikes will take place, but there are fears dates may be selected to maximise disruption, threatening British holidaymakers' travel plans.

"In a full-blown strike, 20 to 30 per cent of flights would be at least delayed," an industry source told The Times.

"They are big numbers."

Around 33,00 flights a day are expected to take off across Europe in the next eight weeks. This may rise on some days in August.

Another airline source told the publication that the controllers' plans to strike are likely to be "extremely disruptive".

Eurocontrol is estimated to handle around 96,000 messages everyday from different pilots, airlines and their staff.

Read More: Pupils and parents face more disruption as teachers strike over pay

Read More: Fresh wave of London Underground strikes to cause travel chaos this month

Demands by the Syndicale Bruxelles Union include hiring 20 more air traffic controllers after what they consider a shortfall in overall staff levels.

A letter written to managers, as seen by The Times, reads: "As difficult as industrial action is on everyone, we see no other path forward than to inform you of our decision to progress [with strikes].

"Our case is lawful, strong and fair, and in the interest of the agency, the network manager, our stakeholders (operational and member states), the flying public at large and ourselves as loyal employees of the agency."

According to Gatwick Airport's CEO Stewart Wingate, planned strikes pose the biggest risk to travel stability this summer.

"What you see with French strikes is that they affect almost every movement from the UK. It causes delays in the operation and you do get times when the terminals become full,” he said.

Areas likely to be affected include, Barcelona, Brussels, Budapest, Nicosia, London, Warsaw and Zagreb, among many others.

Exact strike dates are likely to be announced on Monday.

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