DUBLIN, July 24 (Reuters) - Ryanair, Easyjet Wizz Air and IAG submitted complaints to the European Commission against France on Tuesday, arguing that its air traffic controllers’ strikes were restricting freedom of movement within the EU.
European airlines have faced an increasing threat to profits this year from the cost of flight cancellations associated with air traffic control (ATC) strikes. France has been a particular problem area with public sector workers staging a series of protests over the government’s economic reforms.
The four airlines said they believed France was breaking EU law by not enabling flights over the country during strikes, meaning passengers flying between member states not affected by the action are being denied their freedom to travel.
“The right to strike needs to be balanced against freedom of movement. Passengers on routes that overfly France, especially the large airspace that covers Marseille and the Mediterranean, are also subject to delays and massive disruptions,” IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said in a joint statement by the four.
En-route air traffic flow management delays in June increased by 150 percent compared with one year ago, mainly due to ATC capacity/staffing, weather and industrial action, according to data from network manager Eurocontrol.
Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said: “We call on Europe’s Governments and the EU Commission to take urgent and decisive action to ensure that ATC providers are fully staffed and that overflights are not affected when national strikes take place.”
British Airways-owner IAG, which also owns the Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling carriers, said last month that it was spending more on fuel to travel via alternative routes to bypass French airspace, describing the strikes as more of a threat to European airlines this year than a rise in fuel prices. (Reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin and Victoria Bryan in Berlin; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)