THOUSANDS of Britons flying abroad are facing travel chaos due to a strike by French air traffic controllers.
UK and Irish airlines have had to axe scores of flights while others are being disrupted, with the delays and cancellations affecting not only services to and from France but also flights to other parts of Europe.
Ryanair cancelled 250 flights today, with the airports affected including Birmingham, Luton, Leeds Bradford, Stansted, East Midlands and Dublin.
Among the destinations on Ryanair’s cancelled list are Alicante and Malaga in Spain and Marrakech in Morocco.
EasyJet has cancelled 118 flights. Most of the axed services involve flights within France - but the scrapped services do include return flights to Paris from Gatwick, Belfast and Luton, as well as a Gatwick-Toulouse return service.
British Airways was among the other carriers that had to cancel flights, while Flybe axed 16 services including flights to Paris from Manchester, Birmingham and Exeter, as well as some flights from Southampton..
EasyJet said: “We can assure our passengers we are doing everything possible to limit the inconvenience of this strike on them.”
BA said: “We are doing all we can to minimise disruption to customers. We will be using larger aircraft as well as re-routing some flights to try to help as many customers as possible get to where they need to be.
“Unfortunately there will be some knock-on delays to other parts of our short-haul network as a result of the strike action, given how much airspace in Europe will be affected. We are sorry for any disruption to customers’ travel plans.”
Meanwhile, passengers heading to Stansted airport by rail today were being delayed after a person was hit by a train between Bishops Stortford and Stansted Mountfitchet.
The strike is set to go on tomorrow with the threat of further walkouts from April 16-18 and from April 29 to May 1.
The strikers are protesting against restructuring plans that, they say, threaten the air navigation service in France.
Simon McNamara, director general of the European Regions Airline Association, said: “This action, during one of the busiest passenger traffic weeks of the year, is completely unjustified and unreasonable.
“Europe’s airlines and passengers continue to suffer at the hands of air traffic control unions who are reluctant to recognise the opportunities for Europe that the modernisation of its air traffic management system presents.”