Air Traffic Control Strikes and Flight Cancellations: What You Need to Know

Wednesday, July 12th, 2023

July 2023: Air traffic control strikes and flight cancellations are making headlines, causing concerns for travellers to and from Mallorca as well as other European destinations. Here’s what we know about the situation so far.

High flight volume

During the upcoming eight weeks, an estimated 33,000 flights per day are scheduled across European skies. On popular travel days like Fridays, this number could even exceed 34,000 flights.

The role of Eurocontrol

Eurocontrol is the European organisation responsible for ensuring the safety of air navigation. It coordinates air traffic control operations throughout Europe, allowing seamless travel across different countries’ airspace.

The dispute at Eurocontrol

The current dispute revolves around Eurocontrol’s network manager operations centre (NMOC), which plays a crucial role in streamlining air traffic control operations across the continent. The NMOC exchanges information with countries to improve traffic flow, validate flight plans and handle thousands of messages daily to optimise airspace capacity utilisation.

Strike action status

No confirmed strike action has been announced so far. The Union Syndicale Bruxelles (USB), a union at the Eurocontrol operations centre, has issued a “pre-warning” of potential strike action in the next six months. Negotiations are ongoing, and specific strike dates have yet to be announced.

Potential impact of strikes

While severe disruptions have been reported, the exact scope of potential disruptions remains uncertain. Eurocontrol has not provided detailed information on the potential impact. While a USB strike would pose challenges to Eurocontrol’s operations management, airspace is expected to remain open. This means widespread flight cancellations are not guaranteed, and the overall impact on passengers could be limited.

Flight cancellations by airlines

EasyJet recently announced the cancellation of 1,700 flights, around 2% of their total flights for July and August. The airline explained that this adjustment was made pre-emptively due to the “challenging air traffic environment”. Most of the affected passengers have already been re-booked on alternative flights. Ryanair also had to cancel over 900 flights in June, primarily due to air traffic controller strikes in France.

Stay informed

While the situation raises concerns, it is important not to get unduly alarmed by attention-grabbing headlines. As negotiations and discussions continue, the best advice for travellers is to stay informed through official announcements from airlines, air traffic control authorities, and reliable news sources. Do also check with your airline for any updates, as they will be able to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding your flight.

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