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Air traffic controllers' strike disrupts air travel in France

Passengers faced disruption at major airports in France on Wednesday, as air traffic controllers went on strike in protest at the EU's planned harmonization of European airspace.

bird's-eye view of Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris

Flights were cancelled at France's biggest airport, Charles de Gaulle in Paris

One in ten flights were canceled on Wednesday at the main Paris airport Charles de Gaulle, because of a strike by air traffic controllers. Half of all flights were also canceled at Orly airport. Some 22 percent of flights were canceled in Marseilles as well as 6 percent of flights at Nice, the hub in the Cote d'Azur region.

The French civil aviation authority DGAC said most airports in France were affected by the industrial action during the busy summer holiday period. 30 percent of air traffic controllers joined the strike, according to DGAC.

Disruption began Tuesday evening and is set to continue until 0800 local time on Thursday.

Fear of job losses

The unions are protesting against the Single European Sky project, scheduled for the end of this year, which will involve merging the civil aviation agencies of France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. It is the third strike in France this year against the project.

The volcanic ash cloud that caused European airspace to be largely shut in April highlighted the need to harmonize air traffic.

Unions fear the merger will lead to job losses and cuts in benefits. Meanwhile, government spokesman Luc Chatel told the LCI news channel that the strike was "unacceptable" and would place many travelers in a hostage situation.

Meanwhile, in Spain, 13 air traffic controllers called in sick at the same time in Barcelona, leading to delays, but no flights were canceled. Traffic Minister José Blanco, said it could be an undercover strike.

Author: Nicole Goebel/AFP, Reuters
Editor: Susan Houlton

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