Air traffic controllers across several EU nations were expected to go on strike on Wednesday. The move was prompted by the EU's Single European Sky initiative, which seeks to centralize the continent's airspace and reduce congestion and inefficiencies costing airlines an estimated 5 billion euros ($6.8 billion) annually.
Some 20 flights out of Lisbon in Portugal were cancelled on Wednesday, while Rome's Fiumincino hub was also hit with cancelations and delays. In anticipation of the focus turning to Paris, the civil aviation authority asked airlines to reduce traffic into the French capital by 20 percent.
German workers had originally planned on joining the strike action. However, an injunction filed by German flagship carrier Lufthansa last week prevented them from doing so.
EU plan puts quality 'at risk'
Labor unions representing the air traffic controllers have argued that the EU scheme will cause harm to the industry.
"[It] will lead unequivocally to the worsening of labor and social conditions in the air traffic management industry, consequently putting the entire safety chain and service quality at risk," said the ATCEUC trade association, which called the strike.
The European Transport Workers' Federation echoed the sentiment, saying that "continuing cost reduction" and a disregard for safety were worsening work conditions for air traffic controllers.
"From our point of view the strike called by the flight controllers' union [in Germany] is of a purely political nature and hence not in line with the law," Lufthansa said on Friday.
The European Parliament is due to vote on the Single European Sky initiative on Thursday.
kms/msh (AFP, dpa)