New flights grounded at Spanish airports due to French air traffic strike

Spanish Public Works Ministry warns Vueling it lacks enough aircraft to cover summer operations

Lluís Pellicer
Vueling customers at Barcelona-El Prat airport.
Vueling customers at Barcelona-El Prat airport.Massimiliano Minocri

Passengers on Vueling flights will suffer new cancellations throughout Tuesday due to an air-traffic controller strike in France.

The low-cost airline warned that it is planning to ground 40 flights – 18 departing from or arriving in Barcelona, and 22 involving the airports in Valencia, Alicante, Palma de Mallorca, Málaga, Ibiza and Seville.

The French protest will also affect other airlines, including Iberia, which is cancelling six flights that were scheduled to go over French airspace on its Madrid-London and Madrid-Paris routes.

Although Vueling has admitted to “organization failures,” it is mostly blaming the French air-traffic controller strike for its problems

Ryanair has also announced 102 axed flights for Tuesday, affecting 18,000 passengers. A further 100,000 travelers will experience delays.

The consumer association Ceaccu is encouraging affected passengers to claim compensation in the courts, and is providing a free form to help guide plaintiffs with proceedings.

Bigger problems

But Vueling’s problems go beyond the strike in France. On Monday, the Public Works Ministry forced the company to come up with a contingency plan to guarantee that it will be able to cover all its planned summer operations, after observing “a possible lack of resources.”

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Also on Monday, Catalan government officials met with Vueling executives following scenes of chaos at Barcelona airport, where the airline had been cancelling flights since Thursday. At least 8,000 passengers were stranded and an inside company source pointed at bad planning and a severe shortage of human resources to deal with the volume of work.

The carrier, which is owned by IAG, on Monday announced that it has just hired 34 new pilots and 130 customer service employees to deal with the extra flow. It also chartered six more aircraft. But the Catalan government feels that even this is not enough to deal will the crisis, and is now forcing Vueling execs to provide a weekly account of the company’s performance.

Although Vueling has admitted to “organization failures,” it is mostly blaming the French air-traffic controller strike for its problems. Unions, however, say that the strikes are simply the straw that broke the camel’s back, and that the real origin of Vueling’s problems lie in “the disastrous management and planning” by the company’s former leadership.

English version by Susana Urra.

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