PARIS – Some 30 percent of Air France flights were canceled Saturday as strikes over pay rises appear to be intensifying.
And that’s just part of France’s travel troubles this month. Most French trains will screech to a halt as a strike over President Emmanuel Macron’s economic reforms resumes Saturday night – a strike that is set to last through Monday.
Screens at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport showed red “cancelled” notes next to multiple flights Saturday, as families around France and Europe headed off on spring vacations.
The one-day Air France walkout is affecting international and domestic travel, notably a quarter of flights at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports. Air France is urging passengers to check the status of their flights before coming to the airport and offering to change tickets for free.
It’s the fifth Air France strike since February, and the number of canceled flights is rising. Unions this week announced more strikes this month to coincide with national rail walkouts.
Air France unions want 6 percent pay raises after years of salary freezes. Air France is offering 1 percent raises, saying anything higher will hurt its turnaround efforts.
The strikes have been costing Air France some $24.6 million a day and have hurt its share price.
Meanwhile, the SNCF national railway announced that 80 percent of high speed trains and two-thirds of regional trains will be canceled starting Saturday night as unions stage another two-day walkout.
About a quarter of Eurostar trains to London will be canceled, and no trains were expected to run at all to Switzerland, Spain or Italy.
It’s part of three months of rolling train strikes seen as the biggest challenge to Macron since he took office last year. Rail unions are angry at plans by Macron’s government to abolish a generous benefits system that gives train workers jobs for life.
Both the government and unions are holding firm despite continuing negotiations. France prides itself on its railways, seen as a pillar of public service.
Macron argues that the special status for train workers is no longer tenable in a globalized and increasingly automated economy. It’s part of his broader plans to overhaul the French economy to make it more competitive.
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