To fly or not to fly?that is the question

IT’S summer and that can mean only one thing for tourists – strikes! French air traffic controllers just staged one (later calling it off) only to be joined by the Belgians. Why? To protest against budget cuts due to a Europe-wide reform of the air traffic control system.

The Association of European Airlines strongly condemned “this unjustified industrial action which holds the entire industry to ransom during one of the busiest passenger traffic weeks of the year.” French air traffic controllers had warned of “a heavy disruption of flights” during their strike.

Some 17.1 million UK citizens travel to France each year, mostly during the peak summer months. However, as a large proportion of UK flights cross French airspace, British airlines travelling to Spain are also badly affected by knock-on delays.

Strikes like these are turning what used to be regarded as a not altogether unpleasant experience into something of a nightmare. Flying used to be fun, but I’m talking about the ’80s and even earlier. Since that time, flying’s become increasingly painful as the seat cushions in cattle class have become thinner like some absurd time lapse torture. So thinner seat cushions, less leg room and skimpy food service plus lengthy waits on the tarmac have all eroded what used to be a reasonably convenient and pleasant form of travel.

You now have to arrive at the airport two hours before your flight, stand in line to check your bag, submit to inspection of yourself and your hand luggage and be subjected to one of the most wretchedly uncomfortable places in the world: an airport terminal.

Of course, if you have to change planes at one of the major hubs, you’d better hope your flight is on time and you have the energy to traverse the sprawling wasteland of said hub.

And don’t get me started on the squalling babies, screaming kids, harassed parents, sick co-passengers, and the seatmate who won’t share the armrest and glares at anyone who dares to – the way Tony Soprano might, if told they’d placed their hand on his wife’s thigh at Mass.

This won’t be the last we’ve heard of strikes. Far from it. Looks as if air traffic controllers are digging their err, chocks in for the, err, long haul…


Nora Johnson’s thrillers ‘Retribution’, ‘Soul Stealer’, ‘The De Clerambault Code’  ( available from Amazon in paperback /eBook (€0.89; £0.77) and iBookstore. Profits to Cudeca.

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    • John Gardner

      10 July 2014 • 17:32

      Strikes are to the French what cricket is to the English: summer sport. The French see strikes as their way of proclaiming their ‘patrimony’, their allegiance, to their country. They see hordes of foreigners floating on high over their country. It’s theirs and not for foreigners. They are aware of their reputation as a nation of xenophobes and the most disliked nation in Europe but they will do nothing to change it. They revel in it.
      A country with one foot firmly fixed in the 19th century and the other only very tentatively touching the 20th century is always going to be intensely jealous of anyway flying over their airspace en route to enjoy themselves. They cannot help it. It’s in their genes.


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