Flights in Europe canceled over strikes in France, queen’s funeral


A long weekend that began with hundreds of flight cancellations in France will wrap up with big crowds in London and more axed flights due to Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on Monday.

French air traffic controllers are striking on Friday, leading authorities to ask airlines to cut their schedules from all airports in the country by 50 percent, Air France said in a statement. Some flights that were supposed to fly over France were also canceled, Reuters reported.

Air France is operating 45 percent of its short and medium-haul flights, but 90 percent of its long-haul flights.

“Delays and last minute cancellations cannot be ruled out,” the statement said.

Ryanair said it had been forced to cancel 420 flights that were mainly flying over France, disrupting 80,000 passengers. The airline said the strike does “nothing but disrupt thousands of European citizens/visitors’ weekend travel plans.”

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The disruptions in France come as travel numbers are expected to surge in London for the queen’s state funeral on Monday. Travel booking app Hopper said global search demand for flights to London airports jumped by nearly 50 percent in the hour of the announcement of her death compared with demand the day before.

Tim Hentschel, CEO of the booking site HotelPlanner, expects the funeral to be the most attended event in London “in modern history with record-breaking occupancy levels and room rates.”

On Monday, operations to and from London Heathrow Airport will be adjusted to avoid noise disruptions at certain times “as a mark of respect,” the airport said in a statement. Nonessential shops at the airport will be closed Monday, and some roads around Heathrow will be closed for the procession of the coffin.

“In order to observe these moments on Monday, airlines will need to adjust their schedules accordingly, which will mean some changes to flights,” the airport said. “Passengers who have been notified that their flight has been cancelled, and/or do not have a confirmed seat on a flight, should not turn up to the airport.”

British Airways said it had reduced its schedule and rescheduled some flights while the skies around West London would be closed. That amounted to 50 short-haul round-trip flight cancellations, Reuters reported, with Heathrow changing 15 percent of its schedule.

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Kristen Slizgi, lead travel designer at The Luxury Travelist, expects travel over the weekend to be disrupted and advises travelers that their plans are likely to change. She’s already had to change some train and flight plans last minute for clients currently in Europe due to the strikes. While U.K. travel has been affected, Slizgi doesn’t anticipate the queen’s funeral having much impact across the European Union.

“I also recommend to book travel insurance beforehand,” Slizgi said in an email. “And try to book the most flexible rates in case you need to change course of your travels in the next coming weeks”

James Whiteman, the product development lead at London-based tour operator Niarra Travel, said in an email that he expects Central London and any transportation around it to be “an absolute nightmare.”

“We currently have a 5 mile queue of mourners snaking through central London from Westminster to Bermondsey that has just been capped so now there’s a queue for the queue because the English are mad,” he said. “It’s not even the weekend yet!”

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Tourists in the U.K. should pre-book everything and give themselves plenty of time to get around, said Payton Chapley, assistant lead travel designer at luxury travel agency Travel Edge.

“Public transportation will be overwhelmed, airline strikes will cause delays, and traffic will be wild as well, with the road closures put in place for the funeral,” Chapley said in an email. “Be punctual, be prepared, and be patient!”

Airports across Europe have experienced chaos throughout the summer amid staffing shortages,strikes and a surge in demand.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport said Friday it would have to reduce the maximum number of passengers who depart locally by an average of 18 percent a day through at least Oct. 31 due to a shortage of security workers. That announcement came a day after the airport’s CEO handed in his resignation, Thursday. Schiphol has been plagued by long lines, most recently on Monday, when it asked several airlines to cancel flights.

HotelPlanner’s Hentschel said travelers to London from the Amsterdam airport could be impacted due to the decision to cut daily passengers.

“Other airports across Europe may experience larger crowds and potential disruptions as a result of Schiphol’s decision,” he said.

Justin Smith, president of The Evolved Traveler, a member of Ensemble Travel Group, said in an email that he is not advocating for clients to go to Europe at the moment.

“There is too much upheaval, and much of it is unpredictable,” he said. “And if they do go, I am suggesting we look at alternate airports such as Manchester, Brussels, or Nice. If you’re traveling for leisure, other international destinations are equal in experience and far less challenging at the moment.”


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