Ryanair delivered a petition signed by 1.1 million EU passengers to the European Commission on Wednesday, demanding overflights be protected from air traffic control (ATC) strikes, particularly in France, to help avoid travel disruption, according to Reuters.
CEO Michael O’Leary told reporters that due to France’s location and airspace, the cancellation of flights merely passing through French airspace during local strikes was particularly disruptive and polluting.
„The next French strike is due June 6-7 and our flights are full and we’re being forced to cancel flights. There is a simple solution for this. Other member states have laws that protect overflights,” O’Leary said, referring to Italy, Spain and Greece.
Ryanair said it called on the Commission to protect 100% of overflights, require a 21-day notice of strike action and a 72 hour notice of employee participation in ATC strikes, among other measures.
The Commission did not have an immediate comment.
“The Commission has a lot of soft power. They can lean on France. It doesn’t need to be a law. We don’t want legislation because it’ll take 25 years here in Brussels … does the EU have anything in its armoury to embarrass France?” O’Leary said.
“We met with the French government and asked for reforms but we got shrugged shoulders.”
Europe’s biggest airline said in a statement that the first five months of the year had 57 days of ATC strikes that forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights. The rate of strikes was 10 times more than in 2022.
“France in particular uses minimum service laws to protect their domestic and short-haul flights while disproportionately cancelling overflights,” the statement said.
O’Leary added the EU should extend the carbon emissions tax on flights to transfers and long-haul flights that are far more polluting. Lawmakers in Brussels agreed last year to restrict the tax to flights within the European Economic Area.