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The BBC's Jon Sopel
"The only winners today have been the railways"
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The BBC's James Coomarasamy reports from Paris
"At Orly Airport in Paris the details of the entire day's flights could be found on a single pair of television screens"
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Monday, 26 June, 2000, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Strike halts French air traffic
Airport terminal
Airport terminals in France are deserted
A strike by French air traffic controllers has caused disruption to flights around Europe and has brought air traffic in France to a virtual standstill.

The first such strike in France in nearly 10 years has affected all airports as well as airlines flying over France. The strike brought most French airports to a standstill and some provincial terminals did not open at all.

There is no question of privatising air traffic control

Loyola de Palacio, European Transport Commissioner

The 24-hour strike grounded about 90% of all flights in France. Airlines in neighbouring countries also cancelled flights through French air space.

The strike was called to protest against moves by the European Commission to unify Europe's air traffic control systems and is expected to last until Tuesday morning.

Neighbours' cancellations

In Frankfurt, Germany's Lufthansa airline said it had received authorisation for only four flights to Paris and would be able to carry only around 1,000 passengers instead of the normal load of 6,800.

French air traffic controllers
Air traffic controllers cite safety concerns for their protest

British Airways said it had cancelled about 90% of its flights to and from France and re-routed other flights that would normally pass through French air space.

On a normal Monday, there are between 7,500 and 7,600 flights in France, of which 3,000 are overflights.

France rail operator SNCF provided 5,000 extra seats to compensate for the cancelled flights between Paris and major cities in the country as well as to Geneva in Switzerland.

Unifying air traffic

At meetings on Monday in Luxembourg, the European Commission called on EU transport ministers to set up a coherent air traffic control system for Europe as a whole and to create a strong regulatory agency to enforce it.

The aim of controllers is always the safety of passengers

Guillaume Blandel, French air traffic union leader

European Transport Commissioner, Loyola de Palacio, has argued that EU member-states to replace national air traffic management systems with joint management of the region's crowded air space.

Ms de Palacio said on Monday that the strike was "completely unjustified," the product of "manipulation and disinformation."

"There is no question of privatising air traffic control," she said.

Guillaume Blandel, the national secretary of the SNCTA, one of the main air traffic controllers' unions, said the commission was trying to make traffic control centres compete against each other, turning them into a form of commercial activity.

"The aim of controllers is always the safety of passengers and those on the ground rather than traffic flexibility," Mr Blandel said.

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16 Feb 00 | UK Politics
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