Ryanair, the Irish low-cost airline, has been forced to cancel 220 flights on Bank Holiday Monday due to the 51st day of action by French air traffic controllers (ATC). This will affect approximately 40,000 passengers, who have been contacted via email and offered alternative flights. The airline’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, has apologised to those affected and criticised French authorities and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for the disruption.
In a video posted on social media, O’Leary claimed that flights using French airspace without departing from or arriving in France were being disproportionately affected by the strike action. He argued that France was using minimum service legislation to protect its local French flights, but that all cancellations were then being passed on to English, Irish, Italian, Spanish, and German flights, which he deemed unfair. Ryanair has previously accused the European Commission of sitting on their hands over the issue, and the airline said that more than 620,000 people had signed its petition calling on von der Leyen to take action and protect passengers.
O’Leary called on the EU commission to require France to protect overflights during ATC strikes, as is done in Italy and Greece. He said that it was unfair that flights from the UK to Spain or from Italy to Portugal were being cancelled simply because French air traffic control units wanted to go on strike. He added that Ryanair respected their right to strike, but if they wanted to strike, they should cancel the French flights and protect the overflights.
It is not yet clear which flights the airline intends to cancel or what proportion of them will depart from or arrive in Irish airports. French workers have been holding regular strikes this year in protest at plans by French President Emmanuel Macron to raise the country’s retirement age from 62 to 64.