Rail, air strikes hit France

PARIS: France is braced for another day of travel chaos on Thursday as striking workers bring the nation’s rail network to its knees after an air traffic controllers’ strike that grounded thousands of flights.

The nationwide rail strike got under way on Wednesday evening and was expected to result in less than half of normal services operating until Friday morning.

The stoppage follows two days of disruption in the skies caused by air controllers protesting over plans to create a single European airspace. Up to three-quarters of flights from Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports, the two Paris hubs, were cancelled and Nice, the main airport for the French Riviera, was also hit hard.

The cancellations affected mainly short-haul flights within France and to and from other European countries. Flights crossing French airspace, notably from Britain and Ireland to Spain and North Africa, were also hit by delays and cancellations, leaving frustrated passengers furious.

France’s civil aviation authority, the DGAC, initially said that 1,800 flights, just under a quarter of the weekday average, had been cancelled in anticipation of a second day of strike action on Wednesday. But because of what it described as an “exceptional strike movement followed by almost 100 per cent of air controllers”, it had no option but to tell airlines to make further, last-minute cancellations.

That disrupted the plans of thousands of travellers and many of them took to Twitter to vent their ire at the “bloody French”. “Not happy — bloody French air controller strikes! Delayed 3 hours… and counting,” wrote Clare Hallet-Walsh, who was attempting to get back to Britain after a family holiday in Spain.