European air traffic controllers to strike June 19

WASHINGTON -- Air travelers in Europe can expect major disruptions June 19 -- many won't get to fly at all -- as air traffic controllers in as many as 13 countries participate in a job action to protest a European Union plan to unify the continent's air traffic control services.

The longest strike will be in France, where controllers will be off the job for 12 hours, but shorter strikes also are scheduled in Italy, Greece and Portugal. Capacity at Budapest airport could be reduced by 70%.

The job actions will affect not only flights to the countries involved, but also ones that fly over them.

Air France said it will operate only 10% of its domestic and European network June 19, but 90% of its long-haul fights. One U.S. flight might be affected, but a spokeswoman said June 18 the airline is not certain which one.

British Airways canceled most of its 126 flights in and out of France from midnight Tuesday to midnight Wednesday. Meanwhile, services to and from Italy, Greece and Portugal also might be affected, the airline said.

The European Union said the unification proposal, which has airline backing, is needed to reduce delays and allow more planes to fly by improving air traffic control coordination and communication.

The unions, however, are worried the plan will lead to privatization, and a loss of jobs and safety.

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