French airport staff strike for better pay amid inflation disrupts air travel

Airports personnel staged a strike on Friday to demand better wages and working conditions amid soaring inflation.

Led by labour unions, strikers held banners to demand better pay in the face of rising costs of living at a protest outside Charles de Gaulle international – Paris’ largest airport. The action disrupted the first weekend of vacation departures as school holidays begin.

“It's been five, six years that our salaries have not increased. With life after COVID, the rising gas prices, the prices of basic necessities that won't stop rising, we're asking for salaries to be increased,” airport worker and CGT unionist Hakim Mehadj said.

“Those who have high salaries, like the executives, they don't feel the inflation, but for modest workers, the gas prices that have almost doubled today makes it difficult to come to work,” he added.

About 10 percent of all flights from Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport were cancelled due to strikes by ground personnel on Thursday and a similar disruption is expected on Friday, a spokesman for airport operator ADP has said.

Strike action and demonstrations around CDG airport are expected from early morning until around midday on Friday.

Inside the airport, travellers patiently lined up with their suitcases, hoping to check in for their flight in time. Announcements made by airport staff apologising for the long lines were heard.

“It's not going very well,” French traveller Philippine Tournier told Reuters. She arrived at the airport at 3 am by bus, after her initial flight from the western French city of Nantes was cancelled, to catch her flight to Cancun.

“It's not normal that this [strike] leads to the blockade of the whole airport, even the tourists who have not asked for this, they just want to get back home,” said Mathieu Bussac, a friend travelling to Cancun with Tournier.

Several European airlines and airports have experienced strikes in recent weeks and more travel disruptions are expected next month as airline workers use strong travel demand and staff shortages caused in part by the COVID-19 pandemic to push for higher wages and better working conditions.

French government spokesperson Olivia Gregoire said leaders were holding exchanges with unions in hopes of finding a “way out of the crisis,” as airport staff had mentioned the prospect of holding a similar strike later in July.

“We all know that everyone needs a vacation, first of all the French people, after a difficult year, with the problem of purchasing power but also years of the pandemic crisis that we have lived through,” she said. “So, I think this is a very difficult situation.”