Press Release No.:

Date: 24 June 2014

Geneva – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) strongly condemned the strike action by French air traffic controllers which targets vacationers at the start of the busy summer holiday season. 

“Unions bent on stopping progress are putting at risk the hard-earned vacations of millions of travelers, and from the public’s perspective, the timing of the strike could even be regarded as malicious. In addition to vacationers, business people undertaking important trips, and those awaiting urgent shipments will all face hassles and uncertain waits as flights are cancelled, delayed or diverted around a major portion of European airspace,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

One of France’s largest unions for air traffic controllers has called for a six-day strike to begin on 24 June. This would coincide with the first major travel weekend of the busy European summer holiday season. The strikes are in protest of critical reforms being planned to bring the management of Europe’s airspace into the modern era with efficiencies that would be delivered by the Single European Sky (SES).

“There are more borders in the skies over Europe than exist on land. And that comes at a great cost. In 2012, over 130 million hours of potentially productive time were wasted because of delays that could have been prevented with SES. It is indefensible that France’s air traffic controllers are now going on strike in order to perpetuate travel delays in Europe,” said Tyler.

Eurocontrol estimates that the failure to implement SES resulted in 70 million minutes of delays for aircraft in 2012. That is the equivalent of 133 aircraft being grounded for an entire year. The costs of this are high:

  • EUR 6 billion in lost productivity by travelers spending unnecessary time on aircraft
  • EUR 3 billion in unnecessary operating costs
  • 7.8 million tonnes of unnecessary carbon emissions

SES would transform the costly and inefficient patchwork of 37 civilian air traffic control organizations in Europe into a seamless and efficient air traffic management system safely accommodating growth in demand for travel and shipping. “The SES goals include improving safety, reducing delays, cutting emissions, modernizing infrastructure and creating 320,000 jobs. Our own research confirmed that it can be done without a single controller losing his or her job. Who could be against that? This strike is totally unjustified,” said Tyler, referring to the IATA Blueprint report on SES implementation.

France is a member of the Single Sky Committee that agreed to SES implementation. “We expect France to keep its commitment to deliver the SES. It must not buckle under the pressure of a privileged few controllers seeking to protect themselves from the ‘efficiency’ that every other industry and worker is challenged to achieve. And we urge the French government to make a strong intervention to protect travelers from this malicious and unjustified strike action,” said Tyler.

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Notes for Editors:

  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 240 airlines comprising 84% of global air traffic.
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  • A Blueprint for the Single European Sky, a report from IATA, the Association of European Airlines, and the European Regions Airline Association, can be downloaded here (pdf).