Air traffic control strikes impacted 1,000 easyJet flights

Low-cost carrier easyJet became the latest airline to lay bare the impact of air traffic control strike action as it revealed that nearly 1,000 flights were cancelled last month.

Easyjet

The Luton-based group said it cancelled 974 flights in May, with around 600 due to industrial action in France and Italy and 300 as a result of bad weather disruption and air traffic control (ATC) restrictions.

The cancellations compared with just 117 a year earlier.

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Rival Ryanair made a plea on Tuesday for the EU to take “immediate” action to end the ATC strikes and prevent a summer of travel chaos after more than 200,000 of its customers were hit by flight cancellations in May.

The Dublin-based budget airline was forced to cancel more than 1,100 flights, with the bulk due to the industrial action in France and ATC staff short shortages.

EasyJet said last month’s cancellations were equivalent to around 2.5 per cent of its planned capacity.

Air traffic strikes are costly for airlines and hugely disruptive for passengers, especially in France, as many UK flights need to use the country’s air space or fly longer routes to avoid it.

But ATC action has become a regular headache for the industry in recent years, with 2017 said to be a record for strikes, with 41 days affected.

Despite the woes, easyJet’s latest traffic statistics showed it flew 3.7 per cent more passengers year on year last month at 7.8 million, while its load factor - a key measure of how well airlines fill their planes - improved to 93.3 per cent from 91.5 per cent a year earlier.

Its rolling annual traffic figures showed an 8.4% hike last month to 83.1 million, with its load factor increasing to 93.5 per cent from 92 per cent.

Last month, easyJet reported narrowed seasonal losses to £68m in the first half of the year from £236 million a year earlier after it enjoyed one of its best winters.

The early Easter and capacity reductions by other airlines - including the collapse of Monarch and Air Berlin and the winter withdrawal of Ryanair from the UK domestic market - also helped boost the firm’s sales performance.

Last year, easyJet snapped up part of Air Berlin’s operation for £35.2m, which included a raft of landing slots as well as the rights to operate passenger transport at Tegel.