British low-cost airline EasyJet has cancelled hundreds of flights as the second day of strike action by French air traffic controllers took its toll.
The airline did not operate 331 flights after cancelling 248 on April 8.
Some passengers have been stranded in European cities after Easter breaks, prompting Easyjet to operate five “rescue” flights on April 10.
The additional flights will run from London’s Luton to Paris, Paris to Barcelona, Barcelona to Luton, London’s Gatwick to Madrid, and Marrakech to Gatwick.
EasyJet says it will put larger aircraft on routes that have been most affected to allow more passengers to get home.
A spokesman said the “unnecessary” strike had caused “considerable and disproportionate disruption for passengers and airlines across Europe”.
Rival Ryanair said it had been forced to cancel more than 500 flights over the last two days.
“We again call on the EU [European Union] and French authorities to act now and prevent thousands of travelers being held to ransom by these French [air traffic control] workers,” the Irish low-cost airline said.
Air France said it was operating one-in-four flights to and from Orly airport in Paris, about 40% to and from cities in the rest of France, and 50% of medium-haul flights to and from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport.
No long-haul Air France flights were affected on April 9.
Air traffic controllers are planning further industrial action from April 16 to 18 and from April 29 to May 2 – both key holiday periods.
Roger Rousseau, head of the SNCTA union that represents French air traffic controllers, said: “We can assure our passengers that we are doing everything possible to limit the inconvenience of this strike on them.”
Among the issues upsetting members is that the retirement age will be raised from 57 to 59.
The ongoing French air traffic controllers strike is causing further disruption for European travelers.
More than a quarter of flights from France’s busiest airports had to be cancelled on Wednesday amid protests at plans for a single European airspace.
Controllers say the plans will affect public safety and working conditions.
Airlines based outside France have also suffered upheaval. Ryanair was forced to cancel more than 240 flights on Wednesday, while EasyJet scrapped 128.
Air traffic workers elsewhere in Europe were expected to join the French strikers by working to rule, picketing and distributing leaflets.
Major French airports, including Charles de Gaulle, Orly, Lyon, Nice, Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux were all said to have been affected by the three-day strike called by the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF).
The French Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGAC) said the strike action had intensified on Wednesday, forcing the cancellation of about 1,800 flights for a second day in France. “Nearly 100%” of France’s air traffic controllers were participating in the strike, it added.
On Tuesday, the DGAC said it had asked airlines to cancel 50% of their services and advised travelers to contact them for further information.
The ongoing French air traffic controllers strike is causing further disruption for European travelers
Flights through French airspace were also expected to be axed on Wednesday, and passengers bound for other European destinations were told to prepare for delays of up to four hours.
The budget airline Ryanair said it had been forced to cancel 200 flights on Tuesday and would cancel another 250 on Wednesday as a result of the strike action.
A statement called on the European Commission to remove air traffic controllers’ right to strike.
“It is grossly unfair that thousands of passengers had and will have their plans disrupted as a result of Europe being held to ransom by tiny numbers of French air traffic controllers,” it added.
The rival airline, EasyJet, also said it had cancelled 256 flights since Tuesday.
The ETF has said the strikes aim to “stop a never ending process of liberalization, deregulation and cost-cutting in the Air Traffic Management (ATM) industry”.
It said the European Commission’s so-called SES2+ proposals to update the Single European Sky (SES) project and amend the rules governing the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) would “jeopardise safety and the number and quality of jobs”.
The European Commission estimates that inefficiencies in the way Europe’s air traffic is managed add 42 km (26 miles) to the average flight, forcing planes to burn more fuel and generate more emissions. The system causes delays and costs airlines and customers 5 billion euros ($7.3 billion) annually, it says.
It wants to centralize air traffic controls, rather than leave each member state to monitor its own skies. The commission says this could triple airspace capacity, cut costs and reduce delays.
On Tuesday, Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas told the European Parliament: “The time has come for more decisive action. If we leave things as they are, we will be confronted with heavy congestion and chaos in our airspace.”