International Airlines Group (IAG), Ryanair, EasyJet and Wizz Air have complained to the European Commission (EC) against France’s air traffic controller strikes, claiming they limit EU freedom of movement.

According to the airlines, France has allegedly broken EU law by not allowing flights over the country during strikes.

Denial to enter France has had an impact on air passengers from other EU member states not affected by the strike action, claim the airlines.

The rate of French air traffic controller strikes has increased by 300% so far this year compared to 2017.

Last month, the French Senate said that the country is responsible for 33% of flight delays in Europe.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said: “The right to strike needs to be balanced against freedom of movement.

“The right to strike needs to be balanced against freedom of movement.”

“It’s not only customers flying in and out of France who are affected during French ATC strikes. Passengers on routes that overfly France, especially the large airspace that covers Marseille and the Mediterranean, are also subject to delays and massive disruptions.

“This affects all airlines but has a significant negative impact on Spain’s tourism and economy.”

Eurocontrol is the intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving air traffic management across the EU. It noted that more than 16,000 flights had been delayed by June this year because of ATC strikes, affecting more than two million passengers.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “Europe’s ATC providers are reaching the point of meltdown with hundreds of flights being cancelled and delayed daily either because of ATC strikes or because Europe’s ATC don’t have enough staff.

“When Greece and Italy have ATC strikes, overflights continue as normal.

“Why won’t France do the same? ATC providers (especially in Germany and the UK) are hiding behind adverse weather and euphemisms such as ‘capacity restrictions’ when the truth is they are not rostering enough air traffic controllers to cater for the number of flights that are scheduled to operate.”

Last year, EC said that Europe has witnessed around 357 ATC strikes since 2005, which works out to roughly one month per year when the EU skies are disrupted.