Travel strikes: Is my flight cancelled? Are UK airports disrupted?

Why are there travel strikes in France? Which airlines are affected? Is my flight cancelled? how badly disrupted are UK airports? What you need to know

  • Strikes by transport workers in France have had a domino effect across Europe 

Flights across Europe have been delayed or cancelled after transport workers in France went on strike, with protests against president Emmanuel Macron resuming. 

Strikes on Labour Day by air traffic controllers in France have had a knock-on effect across the rest of Europe. 

But why are there travel strikes in France? Which airlines are affected? Is your flight cancelled? Are UK airports open? 

Here is everything you need to know about the latest travel strikes and if they impact your plans. 

Pictured: Protesters in the French city of Nantes, holding aloft a sign that reads: ‘Menu of the day: casserole a la Macron’

Why are there travel strikes in France? 

Air traffic controllers, as well as members of the French national rail company SNCF, are striking in protest against proposed pension reforms by Macron. 

His reforms would see the retirement age in France increased from 62 to 64 years old. 

It would also force workers to contribute to the pension system for longer, as state pensions in the country are financed by a payroll tax. 

Indeed, the public are not just angry at Macron for increasing the retirement age, as he used a special presidential decree (Article 49.3) to pass his proposals through the National Assembly without approval. 

This has been perceived as undemocratic, with outraged civilians determined to make themselves heard in response. 

Civilians and workers also argue that, if he is using Article 49.3 to increase the retirement age now, there is nothing to stop him doing so again in the future.

Protests have been ongoing since January 2023.  

Protesters clash with riot police in Paris on Thursday, 23 March, 2023, over Macron’s proposed pension reforms

Which airlines are affected? 

Low-cost airline Ryanair has said it would have to cancel 220 flights on 2 May, due to the strikes by air traffic controllers in France. 

Meanwhile, EasyJet has also been forced to cancel flights to French destinations from major UK airports, including London Gatwick, Luton, Bristol and Manchester.

British Airways has also cancelled around 40 flights to and from London, with passengers being offered a full refund, the chance to rebook or travel on a similar flight with another airline.

In a video statement released prior to the planned industrial action, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said  ‘France is using minimum service legislation to protect its local French flights,’ 

‘But all the cancellations are then being disproportionately passed on to English flights, Irish flights, Italian flights, Spanish flights, German flights. This is unfair. 

When there are air traffic control strikes in Italy, they protect overflights. In Greece they protect overflights. France must be required by the EU Commission to protect overflights. It is unfair that flights from the UK to Spain or from Italy to Portugal are being cancelled simply because a bunch of French air traffic control units want to go on strike.’

Is your flight cancelled? 

Whilst some airlines have been forced to cancel European flights, not all routes will be affected by the strikes in France. 

If you are travelling on 2 May, you should check with your airline regarding the status of your flight. 

The latest strikes come in what has been a turbulent period for passengers flying to and from the UK. 

Employees from HM Passport Office have been on strike since Monday, 3 April, 2023, which has affected all seven passport offices across England, Scotland and Wales. 

At peak times of the year, HM Passport Office can receive as many as 250,000 applications per week, meaning there could be an extended wait to renew your passport once the strikes come to an end. 

Are UK airports open? 

Whilst several airports across the UK have seen flights cancelled, none have been forced to close.  

However, about 1,400 security staff at Heathrow Airport are expected to strike in three separate stages between from 4-6 May, 9 May-10 May, and 25-27 May.

Travellers faced disruption at Heathrow Airport during previous strikes by security staff (Photo dated Monday, 3 April, 2023)

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘Yet again, we have a chief executive in John Holland-Kaye who thinks it is acceptable to boost his earnings by an eye watering 88 per cent, from £800,000 to a staggering £1.5 million, while he denies his own workers a decent pay rise.

‘This dispute is bound to escalate with more workers being balloted and disruption set to continue throughout the summer.’

‘We will not let Unite disrupt the flow of visitors to the UK during such an important period for the country,’ said. 

A statement on Heathrow Airport’s official website reads: ‘While the airport will remain open, the strike action may cause disruption to the travel plans of some passengers during this period. If you are planning to travel during these dates, it’s best to check your flight status with your airline for the latest information.’

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