Majority of flights delayed at Palma.

A European strike led by French air traffic controllers caused flight chaos across the continent yesterday in a protest against plans to create a united European airspace. At Palma airport most flights suffered some form of delay and many left or arrived more than an hour late. Thousands of people were hit. There are fears that the situation will be even worse today as a result of the general strike. A Palma airport spokesman said “The majority of flights have been delayed but apart from that everything is operating as normal. Airlines cancelled most flights in and out of France because of protests against the European Union's “single sky” plan to create flight corridors that cut across the continent's fading land borders. Greek controllers joined in late in the morning and their Italian and Hungarian colleagues were due to follow suit in shorter versions of the day-long French walkout. “We can say this strike call has been massively supported,” said Edith Tartry, spokeswoman for French air regulator DGAC. British Airways, which relies heavily on French airspace for European connections, cancelled all but four of its 126 French flights, and 38 other services to Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. “Its affecting thousands of people. Even if your flight is not cancelled, you might be affected by delays,” said a spokeswoman for the UK flag carrier. Air traffic control unions fear the EU plan, aimed at making the system more efficient and more able to handle expected growth in air traffic, could force them to compete for contracts and lead to privatisation of their services. The strike added to the many worries of European airlines grappling with higher insurance and security costs and lower ticket revenues after the September 11 hijacked airliner attacks. French unions were due to strike for 16 hours compared to five hours in Greece, two hours in Hungary and one in Italy. Air France, the 56 percent state-owned national carrier, did not comment on the motivation for the strike, but Lufthansa Chief Executive Juergen Weber was not in conciliatory mood. “It is downright absurd that in this situation a European association of air traffic controllers calls a strike for today in order to protest against open European skies and comes out in favour of the maintenance of fragmented structures,” he said at the airline's annual shareholder meeting in Cologne. At least 90 percent of Air France's short and medium-haul flights did not take off. Most travellers didn't bother to turn up. “People had largely been warned yesterday that their flights would be cancelled, so most haven't made pointless journeys to airports,” said a spokeswoman for Paris airport operator ADP.


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