PARIS -- Flights from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and other French airports faced disruptions Friday as airport workers held a strike to demand salary hikes to keep up with inflation and an urgent hiring push to deal with resurgent travel demand.
The labor action is the latest trouble to hit global airports this summer, as travel resurges after two years of virus restrictions.
French airports have been largely spared the chaos seen recently in London, Amsterdam and some other European and U.S. cities. But on Friday, striking workers sought to call attention to the pain of inflation with a walkout on the first big day of France’s domestic summer travel season.
France's civil aviation authority said 17% of scheduled flights out of Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris were canceled between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday, primarily short-haul routes.
A few hundred workers wearing union vests blocked a key road approaching Charles de Gaulle, forcing passengers to drag their suitcases by foot along a bypass to reach their terminals. A protest was held at Orly, too.
Once inside, passengers faced big crowds and delays at check-in, passport control and security stations.
In addition to salary hikes, union activists called for an emergency recruitment plan to get airport staffing back up to pre-pandemic levels.
Airlines and airports that slashed jobs during the depths of the COVID-19 crisis are struggling to keep up with soaring demand as travel demand resurges after two years of virus restrictions.
“Airport activity has reached 95% of its pre-COVID level, except that now we have 20,000 employees less at the Roissy (Charles de Gaulle) airport, so working conditions deteriorated dramatically,” said Nicolas Pereira, a striking airport worker with the CGT union. “Those responsible are the various bosses who hurried to lay off workers during the COVID period to reduce the cost of labor.”
Paris airport workers are seeking a raise of 6% raise retroactive to Jan. 1, while management is proposing 3%, according to French media reports. Airport firefighters at Charles de Gaulle are also on strike with specific salary demands, forcing the airport to close some runways.
Unions said the strike could last through Sunday.