Air traffic control strikes could disrupt a third of European flights this summer

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Thousands of European travelers could see flights disrupted this summer after air traffic control staff revealed plans to stage a series of mass walkouts.

The strikes by workers at the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, commonly known as Eurocontrol, could affect around 12,600 flights per day, according to The Times. Strike dates could be announced as early as Monday.

Eurocontrol is a key company in managing European airspace. Pilots flying in or through Europe must submit flight plans to the company to ensure safe scheduling and that no two planes fly using the same call sign.

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The company is due to handle around 33,000 to 34,000 flights per day between July and August — a 7% increase compared with the same period in 2022.

Early estimates suggest that 12,600 flights could be affected — roughly a third of all European daily flights, during the peak United Kingdom summer holiday travel period — if the strikes go ahead.

“In a full-blown strike, 20 to 30 per cent of flights would be at least delayed,” a source told The Times. “They are big numbers.”

Workers at Eurocontrol have called for strikes in protest over pay and staff scheduling issues — one demand from the workers includes the immediate hiring of 20 more controllers.

Related: Are you entitled to compensation if your flight is affected by strikes?

A letter from Union Syndicale Bruxelles, the biggest trade union in the European Public Service, obtained by The Times read:

As difficult as industrial action is on everyone, we see no other path forward than to inform you of our decision to progress [with strikes]. Our case is lawful, strong and fair, and in the interest of the agency, the network manager, our stakeholders (operational and member states), the flying public at large and ourselves as loyal employees of the agency.

Related: Here’s when European airports and trains are set to strike this summer

Speaking at an Airports Council International meeting earlier this year, Eurocontrol’s director general Raul Medina said: “Recent industrial action caused many delays across the network. We can manage situations like that in quieter periods, but if it happens in the middle of summer, it will be much more challenging. We need to be prepared.”

This is only the latest strike-induced blow to European travel this year, with Ryanair revealing earlier this week that it was forced to cancel more than 900 flights in June due to French ATC strikes, affecting around 160,000 passengers.

Regarding the current possibility of strikes, a spokesperson for Eurocontrol said: “No specific dates for industrial action have been announced; this was a pre-warning. Eurocontrol is making every effort to keep negotiations open and to find a constructive way forward.”

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