Delays at Bristol Airport Due to Air Traffic Controller Strike

French air traffic controllers have ended their strike but travelers flying into Bristol are still feeling the effects of the disruption. Thousands of British passengers are stuck in France and one-hundred flights were cancelled. The strike was cancelled on the second day, but that was more than enough time to throw flight schedules into total disarray. There is another strike planned for June 14th, and if it goes ahead it will be the 50th strike by French controllers since 2009.

Re-routing, re-scheduling, re-booking…..this could be a frustrating summer for citizens of many European countries. British travelers have to put up with significant inconvenience simply because of where their country is located. The Single European Sky program (SES) is striving to modernize European airspace, a move which is threatening the livelihoods of air traffic controllers in France. Many control towers have either closed or are unmanned if there’s a strike. Therefore, a flight from the UK to Spain, and going back the other way, has to make a large detour either over the Atlantic or central Europe to go around France.

The wider implications can be serious. The European Football Championships are due to begin on June 10th, and the final stage of this event is going to take place in France. If planes can’t fly there, the only other alternatives are cars and trains. European highways and railroads, therefore, will be snarled with traffic. Hotel beds and restaurants will be mostly empty if visitors can’t fly.

What can air passengers do if they’re caught in the middle of a strike, and are stranded? EU regulations state that if a flight is cancelled, the airline is obligated to pay for food and accommodation until another flight can be arranged. Travelers also have the option of receiving a full refund for the unused parts of the ticket. On the other hand, for those who have booked package holidays things can get tricky if they have reserved a hotel room independently, i.e., not part of the package. If a flight is cancelled and they can’t get to where they are staying, the hotel may not offer a refund or change the booking.

This is when travel insurance comes in handy. Some policies offer small compensation for long layovers in an airport, but not enough to cover the cost of a hotel room. People all over Europe should brace themselves for a long and frustrating summer.

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