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French regional airports close as air traffic controllers strike

Several of France's regional airports closed completely on Friday, while others offered a skeleton service as air traffic controllers went on strike.

French regional airports close as air traffic controllers strike
More than 1,000 flights have been cancelled in France - around half of all scheduled routes - as air traffic controllers strike. Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP

Around 1,000 flights to and from France were cancelled on Friday as the country’s air traffic controllers went on strike, with their action also causing delays across European airspace.

France’s DGAC civil aviation authority said 16 airports were operating a skeleton service, as were traffic control centres guiding planes overflying French territory at high altitude.

READ ALSO 1,000 flights cancelled: How strikes affect travellers in Europe on Friday

But several regional airports were closed and the DGAC warned of “cancellations and significant delays across the country”.

European air traffic body Eurocontrol said it was seeing “significant disruption”, with delays totalling over 500,000 minutes by 8.30am.

That was more than three times the level across the whole of last Friday when air traffic was moving normally.

Delays of an average 25 minutes per flight were mostly down to the strike, Eurocontrol said.

Around 21,000 planes are expected to pass through Eurocontrol airspace on Friday, down by around one third.

Air France dropped around half its 800 planned services Friday, while Europe’s largest airline Ryanair said it had cancelled 420 flights overflying or landing in France.

The DGAC said it was working with Eurocontrol to divert planes around French airspace.

The SNCTA air traffic controllers’ union said its members are concerned that pay is not keeping up with soaring inflation.

Air traffic controllers are among France’s best-paid civil servants, earning an average of €5,000 per month according to a parliamentary report.

The union also warns that recruitment is falling short, risking gaps in the profession’s ranks.

One-third of existing air traffic controllers are expected to retire between 2029 and 2035, and training new ones takes at least five years.

The SNCTA says the long wait for new recruits means fresh funding is needed for additional training capacity.

It has filed notice of a further strike on September 28th-30th.

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STRIKES

Shortages at French filling stations after strikes at refineries

Many Total Energies fuel stations across France are reporting shortages of petrol and diesel after industrial action by refinery workers. However, the company's fuel discount may also be to blame.

Shortages at French filling stations after strikes at refineries

Employees of Total Energies have been staging industrial action that includes blockades at refineries, in an ongoing dispute over pay. 

However some have blamed Total’s extra fuel discount – on top of the government’s 30 centimes per litre fuel rebate – for the shortages at filling stations across the country. 

While the issue has been primarily concentrated in the Paris region, it also extends north to the Pas-de-Calais département and West toward Brittany, and can be found in some other parts of the country too.

Almost half of the TotalEnergies fuel stations in the Paris region were out of stock on October 4th, according to France bleu.

La Voix du Nord reported on Monday that “From Saint-Léonard to Marquise, it was impossible to fill up. The same situation has been observed in Arras.

The pumps were also dry in eight TotalEnergies stations in Strasbourg and its surrounding area, according to BFMTV.

Customers can check to see if stations near them are low in stock by consulting the map on TotalEnergies’ website, HERE.

The problem has been ongoing for several days, after refinery workers staged industrial action beginning on September 27th to push for the oil group to increase workers’ wages due to inflation. 

However, the refinery workers’ strike is not the only reason for fuel shortages at TotalEnergies service stations. The company began offering customers an additional discount on fuel prices at the beginning of September, which could be added on top of the government’s existing fuel subsidy.

On July 22nd, the TotalEnergies announced it would offer a discount of €0.20 per litre at all its service stations in the country from September 1st until November 1st. In the second phase, which would run from November until December 31, the discount will be €0.10 per litre.

As a result of the campaign, the oil giant has seen a 30 percent increase in the number of customers frequenting its stations, which has left many without the necessary stocks to meet high demand.

Additionally, the availability of fuel in stations was impacted by the extension of industrial action by refinery workers until October 3rd – it was set to run only three days.

Despite several stations struggling to meet customer demand, the oil company assured customers that there is “no shortage of fuel” and that it “has built up stocks and is importing regularly,” according to France régions.

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