MIPCOM: French Air Traffic Controllers Threaten Thursday Strike

The work stoppage could affect travel out of the conference.

CANNES – Word that a planned -- and then canceled -- European air traffic controllers strike is back on for the last day of MIPCOM and has the Palais buzzing, with long lines of worried conference attendees scrambling for news at the information desks.

However, the latest travel threat is not continent-wide. The current strike stems from the French air traffic controllers, who have called for an action on Thursday, Oct. 10 from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. on the request of the French Civil Aviation Authority. At this time, the strike will affect domestic flights in and out of Toulouse, Marseille, Paris/Orly and nearby Nice, from which MIPCOM attendees fly out. Connecting flights will be affected, and short flights to other European cities are expected to be the worst hit. French Civil Aviation Authorities have called for at least a 20 percent reduction in flights, though up to 50 percent of flights in and out of France might be affected.

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"We expect to transport all our customers to their final destination, but some delays may occur," Air France said in a statement. Calls to British Airways and Swiss Airways have them reporting that flights will still be taking off as scheduled.

The airlines' reassurance has not stopped several nervous executives from changing their plans and moving flights to make it out of MIPCOM as early as Wednesday afternoon, including jumping on EasyJet flights to get connections in the U.K. and avoid French skies altogether on Thursday.

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However, as Gregory Ang, managing director of Gang TV in Singapore, who has an early morning flight out of Nice on Thursday, noted: “Worst case, I stay another night. Every year something happens, but it can’t be as bad as the year of the volcano eruption when people were taking taxis to Paris and people had to stay for an extra week.”

A regional train strike is also affecting inter-city travel within France, starting on Tuesday and ending Thursday morning at 8 a.m. A third of regional trains in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region have not been running out of Cannes and Nice and night trains have been halted. However, high-speed TGV travel to Paris has not been disrupted.

British Airways, Swiss Air and Air France are advising travelers to check for schedule changes regularly or to rebook flights for Oct. 11.