French air traffic control could ruin summer holidays as they turn up hours late

French air traffic control could ruin summer holidays as they turn up hours late

France, renowned for its leisurely approach to life, seems to be extending this reputation to its air traffic controllers, potentially causing chaos for summer holidaymakers.

Reports suggest that a recent agreement allowing controllers to arrive up to three hours late and leave three hours early could exacerbate delays and frustrate travellers.

The National Union of Air Traffic Controllers successfully negotiated this deal, which permits controllers to put in significantly fewer hours than officially mandated.

French media outlets reveal that while controllers are supposed to work 32 hours a week, they practically work 25 percent less, earning handsome salaries of up to €108,000 a year.

One anonymous controller admitted to French newspaper Le Parisien that they often gauge air traffic conditions before deciding to come in for their shift.

“I go in at 11am or later, depending on the predicted workload,” they said. Another controller disclosed to Le Point magazine that managers turn a blind eye to late arrivals as long as they can be reached in case of emergencies, even recounting instances of trying to contact colleagues who were abroad.

Despite assurances from air traffic controllers that safety is maintained, officials blame their irregular schedules for contributing to flight delays. Last year, 24.31 percent of flights from French airports experienced delays, although this figure was slightly lower than the UK’s 25.39 percent.

President Macron’s government had aimed to enforce punctuality among air traffic controllers as part of broader reforms, including reducing the number of control towers in France.

However, facing the threat of strikes during the Paris Olympics, ministers caved into the demands of the air traffic control union, granting significant concessions.

Under the new agreement, controllers will enjoy pay rises of up to €18,000 annually, an extra 18 days off each year, and the option to retire at 59. The cost of this deal, estimated at €70 million over four years, will be borne by airlines.

This capitulation to labour demands extends beyond air traffic control. Public transport workers in Paris secured an “Olympic bonus” of up to €2,500, while police officers negotiated a €1,900 bonus. Employees of SNCF, the state rail operator, also gained the right to retire earlier, mitigating the effects of Macron’s pension reforms.

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