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URGENT: French pilots poised to strike

French pilots union calls for a rolling month-long work stoppage in May to protest a law that limits the ability of pilots to strike. Disruptions to passengers’ travel plans could be fierce.

You may never have heard of SNPL France ALPA, but if you have a trip to or in France coming up this month, it could seriously impact your life.

That’s the union representing French commercial pilots. It is calling on all its members to strike starting Saturday, May 3 — for the entire month.

The idea is to conduct a kind of rolling work stoppage, a few hours at a time, on certain flights on certain days, every day through May 30.

Even if your particular flight isn’t stuck on the tarmac, the strike figures to send chaos rippling through entire flight schedules — and not just in France.

According to the AnglINFO expat blog, the planned “grève” would affect nearly 30 airlines in France, Europe, the United Kingdom, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

Several of those airlines, such as Air Tahiti Nui, Corsair, XL Airways and most of all, Air France, fly to and from North America, especially the United States.

According to media reports, the source of the union’s ire is a relatively new French law that effectively limits pilots’ ability…to strike.

Isn’t irony wonderful?

Still, if you’ve got a trip to or from France coming up this month, you might want to have a Plan B handy, including possibly some form of insurance to cover trip interruption or cancellation.

In the spring, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote so poetically, “a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love.” In France, almost any time of year, it turns to walkouts.

Unlike the US, where unions have largely been beaten into submission, organized labor is strong, vocal and active in France, so much so that the late summer-early fall months are often referred to “strike season.”
And public transportation of any kind is a frequent target.

Rare is the frequent visitor to Paris who has never seen — or had their travel plans altered by — labor protest.

One of my most indelible memories of Paris is slowly pulling out of the Gare de Lyon station aboard the high-speed TGV train bound for Lyon, just ahead of striking railroad workers who came flowing down the platform like a human river, flags and banners flying in the morning breeze.

The good news is that the union and the French government are still talking to each other, and there’s a chance the planned strike could be cancelled.

So stay tuned.

But keep your Plan B ready, anyway.

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