No solution to French ATC issue expected this summer, says Ryanair

Potential strikes remain ‘biggest risk’ to this year’s tourism season, airline says, as industrial action escalates over last year

Potential strikes by air traffic controllers are the “biggest risk” to this year’s peak travel season, Ryanair has said, adding that EU lawmakers will “struggle” to resolve the issues this summer.

The low-cost airline last month handed a petition, signed by more than 1.1 million of its customers, to the European Commission, demanding that flights over French airspace be protected in the event of further strikes by ATC staff in the country.

Jade Kirwan, head of communications at Ryanair, said the airline was forced to cancel more than 400 flights across Europe earlier this month after air traffic controllers joined general protests against French president Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the country’s retirement age to 64.

More than 30 flights to and from Dublin Airport were affected, the majority of which were not coming from and going to France.


“Even comparing this year and last year, we would have had five strike days in total for the entire year and that was obviously a very busy summer,” Ms Kirwan said. “Whereas this year, we’re up to 58 already so it’s been a massive jump on that.”

Ms Kirwan denied accusations that Ryanair wants to deny ATC staff their right to strike.

“It’s not that we’re trying to stop the strikes from happening. It’s more than we want to manage the impact of the strikes so they’re not affecting millions of people.”

Ryanair has long highlighted that Italian, Greek and Spanish minimum service rules protect overflights – flights passing through their airspace but not to or from one of their airports – when their air traffic controllers down tools, which is not the case in France. The airline also wants to enforce a 21-day notice period for such stoppages and binding arbitration for air traffic control disputes.

No further French ATC strikes are currently planned but Ms Kirwan said the threat of further action remains the “biggest risk to summer 2023 travel plans”. She said the airline is waiting to see if the French pension reforms, signed into law in April, will be accepted by unions.

She said the European Commission will “struggle” to resolve the issues this summer.

“You can’t click your fingers and do it overnight, but [we would want] to see them just do anything, take any steps in that direction.”

Separately, Ms Kirwan said that while Dublin Airport operator DAA had “pulled up their socks” compared to last summer, the issues around parking that have emerged in recent weeks were avoidable.

“They’re offering no solutions,” she said, “other than to force the purchase of the QuickPark car park. What other solutions are they offering? They’re not being very solutions-focused for our customers.”

More than one million passengers are expected to travel through the airport in the coming 10 days as the summer season hits high gear with the closure of primary schools across the State and the ending of State examinations at second level.

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times