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French air travel chaosas control strike spreads

PARIS, Feb 17 (AFP) – About 25 flights were cancelled at the main Paris Charles de Gaulle airport Tuesday and others were delayed by up to 55 minutes as a strike by air traffic controllers spread to the main control centre responsible for the entire region, airport sources said.

At Orly airport south of Paris, where the strike began Monday, six out of 10 flights were cancelled for the second day.

The controllers have declared a five-day strike at Orly, which they have threatened to continue next week if talks fail.

Of the 120 controllers at the airport, half were on duty and of those 12 were under government orders to provide a minimum service, allowing long-haul flights to operate but seriously affecting domestic and European operations.

The strike spread to the regional center at Athis-Mons, east of Paris, which handles all flights to, from and above the Ile-de-France region surrounding the capital. Of the 40 controllers on duty there, 18 were reported to be on strike.

“The centre is functioning at half its capacity, and delays are likely throughout the day” at Charles de Gaulle airport, a union official said. Aeroports de Paris, the company handling all the city’s airports, said flight cancellations affected mostly domestic operations.

The controllers were protesting a government plan to create a single approach pattern for both Charles de Gaulle airport, which is at Roissy, northeast of the capital, and Orly. This would mean transferring the Orly controllers to the larger airport, leaving behind only a few to supervise ground movements on the runway and taxiways.

The plan is intended to simplify the task of pilots and improve coordination between the two airports. But the unions say it would lead to a worsening of the controllers’ working conditions.

The secretary of state in charge of transport, Dominique Bussereau, said a week-long strike over the issue was not justified.

But a union official said, “the minister wants to impose this project even though no study has been carried out. If a serious study, by experts, says that the best solution if to transfer some of the controllers from Orly to Roissy, then we’ll go to Roissy.”

The official said there was no need for haste in adopting any changes, since they had been proposed as part of a traffic reorganization plan for the decade of 2010-2020.

Ernest-Antoine Seilliere, the head of the French employers’ movement, said it was “scandalous” that 12 controllers could hold the entire country to ransom.

But Harold Quesnel, of the union of civil aviation workers (USAC-CGT), pointed out that the 12 controllers actually handling flights at Orly were on duty because the government had ordered them to provide a minimum service. In fact, only four controllers were working on each shift.

But Quesnoy said the strike was supported by all 60 controllers who should have been on duty Tuesday.


                                                              Subject: France news