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WHAT'S FRENCH FOR 'DODGED A BULLET'?
By Joe Brancatelli
The French don't need a reason to strike, of course. But French air traffic controllers, who are so fractious that they are represented by more than one union, think they have a reason: The EC is trying to reorganize the continent's air space, remaking it along geographic lines as opposed to the current national scheme. French controllers think that'll mean fewer jobs for them. Hence, their threat to strike for six days. Thankfully, the strike didn't last that long. Here's how we covered it. Like a travel blog, a Pinter play or one particular episode of Seinfeld, read backward since the latest item is on top.
6/25/14, 5:45PM ET, WEDNESDAY
The French air-traffic controller strike, which was scheduled to continue until Sunday, ends at midnight tonight local time after the two sides agreed to further talks. That's good news, too, because Belgian air-traffic controllers struck this evening, too, and it's been a very difficult day in the European skies. More than 7,200 flights were delayed and nearly 800 cancelled around the continent, much higher than yesterday's first day. I would expect plenty of residual delays and many cancellations on Thursday, too, as the system slowly gets back to normal. It'll probably be the weekend before everything starts running more smoothly.
6/25/14, 2PM ET, WEDNESDAY
BAD, GETTING WORSE
Delays and cancellations are both rising in Europe on the second day of the French air-traffic controllers strike. So far today: 770 cancellations and 6,400 delays.
6/24/14, 10:15PM ET, TUESDAY
VERRE À MOITIÉ PLEIN
It was a verre à moitié plein (glass half full) situation in Europe today. There were fewer cancellations than expected, but many more delays. According to FlightStats.com, there were 733 cancellations around the continent, about four times more than usual. Delays, however, leapt to more than 6,300, seven times more than than usual. As far as I can tell, virtually all of the transatlantic flights to/from France operated today. That's no surprise since French aviation authorities emphasized getting those flights out and laid the bulk of the cancellation on airports in the South of France and to North Africa. Air France, the largest carrier in the country, operated at about 47 percent on-time today. Vueling, a Spain-based subsidiary of the company that owns British Airways and Iberia, has a hub at Paris/Orly airport. It's performance at Orly today: 33 percent. In the days ahead--the strike runs to Sunday--expect the same pattern: a moderate number of shorter-haul cancellations and a messy mess of continental delays. At the moment, no airline operating transatlantic flights to/from France is offering a travel waiver. Both Air France and its Delta SkyTeam partner have reversed their earlier offers.
6/20/14, 4:45PM ET, FRIDAY
GEARING UP FOR A STRIKE
Airlines are beginning to post warnings and waivers relating to the air-traffic controller strike planned for France next week. Currently scheduled for Tuesday, June 24, to Sunday, June 29, the strike is likely to paralyze huge chunks of short-haul flights to/from French airports and some longer-haul transatlantic flights.
As expected, airlines are not going to make announcements of cancellations until Monday morning, Paris time. But Air France, the largest carrier, and Delta Air Lines, its U.S. joint-venture partner, have already issued waiver policies. Vueling, a British Airways/Iberia subsidiary that hubs at Paris/Orly, has only announced that it will announce something Monday. Nothing official yet from other U.S. carriers serving France, Air Canada, or from OpenSkies, the BA subsidiary that operates from New York/JFK and Newark to Orly.
Here's the Air France announcement and waiver details:
Here's Delta's information:
And here's Vueling's non-announcement announcement:
A warning: Do not assume only flights to/from France will be affected next week. The problems there will have a ripple effect, especially on carriers based in South and Central Europe. If you can avoid flying to, through or around Europe next week, do it. If you can't, leave plenty of extra time in your schedule, expect delays and snap cancellations and a more unpleasant week than usual.
Also remember: France's rail network is still on strike and while the effects of the work stoppage are waning, French rail transportation is erratic and unreliable just now. Even if they resume full service by the time the air-traffic controllers strike, rail networks are likely to be chaotic.
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ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.
THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.
This column is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.