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Hundreds of flights have been cancelled across Europe (and it will be worse tomorrow)

Air traffic controllers in France are on strike. Here’s how it’s been affecting flights so far…

Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated at 6pm

HUNDREDS OF FLIGHTS to and from France have been cancelled today as air traffic controllers launch a two-day strike over working conditions.

The situation is due to worsen tomorrow.

Aer Lingus and Ryanair are amongst the airlines to cancel flights.

France’s civil aviation authority had asked airlines to scrap around 40 percent of flights, warning of “disruption across the whole country”, and it called on companies to increase cancellations to about 50 per cent tomorrow.

Flag carrier Air France warned of “very severe disruption” to its flight schedule. Although it pledged to operate “almost all” long-haul flights, medium and short-haul services would be badly affected, it said.

“Last-minute delays and cancellations can also be expected,” the airline added.

Two Aer Lingus flights - EI 522 Dublin to Paris and EI 523 Paris to Dublin – have been cancelled.

“All other Aer Lingus flights between Ireland and France on Wednesday 8th April are planned to operate,” a statement on the airline’s website reads.

“We will notify customers through all available communications channels should this situation change.”

Ryanair has taken drastic action and cancelled hundreds of flights across Europe – including services to and from Dublin and Shannon. The budget carrier has also published a list of flights cancelled for tomorrow.

“Customers will be updated on their flight status via email and/or the mobile phone number you provided at time of booking,” the airline said.

“It’s grossly unfair that thousands of European travellers will once again have their travel plans disrupted by the selfish actions of a tiny number of French… workers.”

Scrapped

There were average delays of 30 minutes at the main Paris airport, Charles de Gaulle and 300 flights out of 700 were scrapped at the secondary airport of Orly.

On the whole, though, passengers had been warned well in advance and seemed to have made other plans.

“The companies have done what was needed. For the moment, there are no difficulties,” one airport source said.

“There are a few people complaining, but no large-scale discontent,” added this source, who did not wish to be named.

However, not everyone had been tipped off.

“We weren’t warned,” said frustrated tourist Audrey Trivel at the desk of Portuguese carrier TAP Portugal.

Instead of a direct flight to Madeira with her family, she was staring down the barrel of a “grand tour” of Europe, via Geneva and Frankfurt.

Unions

The strike was called by the main air traffic union SNCTA, which wants talks over the working conditions of its members.

A particular bone of contention is the pushing back of the retirement age for airtraffic controllers from 57 to 59.

The union insists that for the past 10 years, talks over working conditions have taken place outside the formal structure for union-management negotiations.

The FNAM aviation association strongly criticised the strike, saying it would “essentially penalise French-based airlines and their sub-contractors.”

Transport Minister Alain Vidalies ”regretted” that the union had chosen to call for strike action and noted that a meeting was due to take place on April 13 to discuss working practices in the sector.

“We’ll see what we’re offered,” SNCTA head Roger Rousseau told AFP.

“Since 2013, we’ve been taken for a ride meeting after meeting,” he said.

He added he “hoped to find a way out” without resorting to strike action, which he said was the only way to “make ourselves heard.”

The SNCTA had originally called the strike from March 25 to 27 but scrapped it after the Germanwings crash in the French Alps that killed 150.

Further industrial action is planned from April 16 to 18 and from April 29 to May 2.

Includes reporting from © AFP 2015 and Daragh Brophy. (First posted at 9am).

Read: Ryanair pulled off an ‘exceptional’ March >

More: ‘Why does everyone think Aer Lingus is a basket case that we’ve got to sell?’ >

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Nicky Ryan

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