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IATA hits out at French air traffic controllers

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Strike “aims to keep borders in the sky,” IATA says

The airline trade body IATA has strongly condemned this week’s strike action by French air traffic controllers, which is targeting vacationers at the start of the busy summer holiday season. The strike “aims to keep borders in the sky,” the association says.

“Unions bent on stopping progress are putting at risk the hard-earned vacations of millions of travellers, and from the public’s perspective, the timing of the strike could even be regarded as malicious,” said Tony Tyler, the International Air Transport Association’s director general and CEO.

“In addition to vacationers, businesspeople 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.”

As previously reported, one of France’s biggest unions for air traffic controllers has launched a six-day strike starting on June 24. It coincides with the first major travel weekend of the busy European summer holiday season.

The strikes are in protest of reforms aimed at bringing the management of Europe’s airspace into the modern era, IATA says, with efficiencies that would be delivered by the EU’s Single European Sky (SES) system.

“There are more borders in the skies over Europe than exist on land,” said Tyler. “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.”

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, in terms of lost productivity by travellers spending unnecessary time on aircraft, in unnecessary operating costs and in unnecessary carbon emissions, IATA argues.

“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,” Tyler said.

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[pictured: Rolls-Royce Trent 500 powers the Airbus A340-500/600; photo courtesy Rolls-Royce plc, copyright © Rolls-Royce plc 2010]

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