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The CEOs of the continent's largest airlines, European Union (EU) policy-makers, tourism boards, consumer groups and research centres joined forces to issue a call for action in order to reduce

the impact of air traffic controllers' (ATC) strikes on the European economy.

Since 2010, the continent's skies have been disrupted 213 days due to the boycott of work of ATCs, forcing Airlines for Europe (A4E) member carriers to cancel some 30,000 flights, meaning that more than two million passengers had to reschedule their trips, while others experienced delays of over six million minutes, seriously affecting cross border trade, tourism, business as well as investment. According to PwC, as a result, the EU has missed out on EUR9.5 million in GDP.

As Carolyn McCall, CEO, easyJet, explained, due to the strikes, airlines often have to fly around affected territory, meaning the highways in the sky which are more congested.

"This is why we care about protecting overflights, flights overflying strike-affected territory, while ensuring this does not come at the expense of flights to and from the country affected.

Disruption adds cost, which ultimately means higher fares for passengers," divulged McCall.

As Thomas Reynaert, managing director, A4E, highlighted, air travel is a crucial enabler of economic activity in Europe, directly affecting the wider tourism industry, businesses across most sectors of the economy as well as job creation.

"Even a small increase in air travel can bring substantial socio-economic benefits, especially in areas of Europe affected by high youth unemployment.

To ensure an efficient European network providing a crucial conduit for trade, tourism and economic growth, our call for action outlines nine principles to promote free movement by air, reliable airspace and prosperity," explained Reynaert.

Some of the suggestions put forward by the airlines in their call for action include for air traffic controllers and their unions to voluntarily commit to participation in arbitrary or conciliatory procedures before taking industrial action, protecting flights overflying the country affected, providing a 21-day advance notification of strike action and implementing cooperation mechanisms to explore means to minimise the impact of ATC service disruption.

"It is about time we work together to reduce the impact of these strike actions. Although we fully respect the right to industrial action, the demands of increasingly mobile European citizens and businesses cannot be taken hostage by localised industrial actions," concluded Reynaert.