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Spanish budget airline Vueling cancels 66 flights

Hundreds of passengers were left stranded Tuesday following the sixth straight day of cancellations and major delays involving flights by Spanish budget airline Vueling.

The airline, part of part of British Airways and Iberia’s parent group IAG, said it cancelled 66 flights on Tuesday because of a strike by French air traffic controllers.

All but two of the flights that were cancelled were set to arrive or depart from airports in France, including Orly and Charles de Gaulle in Paris.

Problems with Vueling flights began on Thursday, coinciding with the start of the summer vacation for many passengers going through Barcelona’s El Prat airport, the airline’s base.

Vueling has blamed unspecified “operational difficulties” for the delays of over 12 hours and cancellations of dozens of flights since Thursday, in addition to the strike by French air traffic controllers.

But a union representing flight crew and the Spanish government say the airline is to blame for the travel disruption, arguing it had expanded the number of flights for the summer without providing enough means to follow through.

“It is a problem of planning by the company,” Economy and Tourism Minister Luis de Guindos said during an interview with Onda Cero radio.

“I hope Vueling will quickly present an action plan to prevent this from repeating itself,” he added.

Angry passengers have staged loud protests at the airline’s check-in and information desks at El Prat, demanding that their fares be reimbursed.

Spain’s public works ministry said on Monday Vueling faces an inquiry and a possible fine over its handling of the travel chaos.

Vueling then announced it would hire around 30 more pilots and rent six extra planes to boost its capacity.

The airline, founded in 2004, transported 24.8 million passengers last year.