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Air Traffic Controllers' Strikes Paralyze European Air Travel - 2002-06-19

Scattered strikes by air traffic controllers have snarled flights across Europe, leaving some passengers stranded at airports. The biggest impact is being felt in France.

Airports across France are virtually deserted, as most of the country's air traffic controllers took to the picket lines.

The day-long strike, expected to end before midnight, is to protest a proposed continent-wide "single-sky" plan, aimed to streamline Europe's flight routes.

But French air controllers in particular, fear the plan will lead to privatization and greater competition in the industry, and the loss of jobs.

A spokeswoman for the French air regulator DGAC, Edith Tartry, told VOA she had no exact figures of the number of strikers, but estimated they included most controllers in the country.

Ms. Tartry said all the airports in France are affected by the walkout. She said about one-tenth of regular air traffic is expected for the day.

Two French carriers, Air France and Air Lib, issued statements saying only 10 to 50 percent of most flights were assured. But Air France said most of its long-distance, international flights would fly as usual.

Disruptions are also expected elsewhere in Europe, with some air traffic controllers in Italy, Portugal, Greece, and Hungary joining the strike. And a number of foreign airline companies said they would drastically cut service to France for the day.