Air France strike leaves passengers stranded

27th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

27 October 2007, PARIS (AFP) - Queues of frustrated, angry passengers built up at main French airports on Saturday as Air France cancelled scores of flights because of a strike by cabin staff.

27 October 2007

PARIS (AFP) - Queues of frustrated, angry passengers built up at main French airports on Saturday as Air France cancelled scores of flights because of a strike by cabin staff.

Hundreds of people who spent the night at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport confronted the airline's staff who were working. There were major check-in delays at two of the main terminals early Saturday, signalling a tough start to a peak flying weekend as France started mid-term school holidays.

Air France insisted on the third day of the strike that it expected 70 percent of scheduled flights to take off and it planned new talks with unions.

But at Charles de Gaulle's terminal E about 10 of the 40 scheduled flights early Saturday were cancelled, including planes to New York, Washington, Miami and the west African city of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso.

Incoming flights from Dubai, Brazzaville and Toronto, which should have landed early Saturday also fell victim to the strike. Many domestic flights were cancelled.

The action began to bite on Friday when scores of flights were cut, including more than half of long-haul flights and some 50 medium-haul services out of the main Paris airport.

In Charles de Gaulle's terminal E, Cui Wansheng from Jiangsu in China said with a tired grin: "I have heard a lot of stories about strikes in France but never experienced any. Strikes in French airports are famous all around the world."

Cui, who works for a Finnish paper company, was in Paris for four days on business and he was meant to return to Shanghai on Friday but his Air France flight was cancelled and he rebooked on a Chinese airline for Saturday.

Mai Quy Thao, a 24-year-old Vietnamese pharmacist from Ho Chi Minh City, spent her last euros trying to reach her family by telephone.

"When it's a strike on Paris transportation, it affects people in Paris, but this, it's huge, this is worldwide," she said.

Thao, whose flight to Bangkok had been cancelled, said: "I don't know where I am going to sleep, there is a long line of people waiting, I try to connect to the Vietnam airline website but it's so expensive, it's a nightmare.

"In Vietnam we have strikes sometimes in small factories but not in the public system, it's strange for me, being in a strange place in a strange country."

The Aeroports de Paris company which operates Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, said it had asked shops to stay open "as late as possible" and had ensured that food and drink would be available all night.

Unions representing flight attendants launched the strike on Thursday to demand better pay and conditions. It has been followed by more than three quarters of staff, unions say.

Management and unions met for four hours on Friday but failed to overcome their differences.

Air France has started legal action against three unions seeking 45 million euros (65 million dollars) in compensation for losses. It accused them of having failed to negotiate in the run up to the strike.

AFP

Subject: French news

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