Ryanair has delivered a petition signed by 1.1 million EU passengers to the European Commission, demanding overflights be protected from air traffic control (ATC) strikes, particularly in France, to help avoid travel disruption.
Earlier this month, the trade group Airlines for Europe, which represents companies such as Lufthansa and Air France-KLM as well as Ryanair, also called on the Commission to take action.
CEO Michael O'Leary told reporters France's location meant the cancellation of flights merely passing through its airspace during local strikes was particularly disruptive and polluting.
"The next French strike is due June 6-7 and our flights are full and we're being forced to cancel flights. There is a simple solution for this. Other member states have laws that protect overflights," O'Leary said, referring to Greece, Italy and Spain.
Ryanair said it called on the Commission to protect 100% of overflights, require a 21-day notice of strike action and a 72-hour notice of employee participation in ATC strikes, among other measures.
"The Commission is liaising actively with relevant member states to assess whether and how service continuity for overflights could be improved in the event of strikes," a spokesperson for the Commission said.
The spokesperson said the Commission had already called on member states to preserve 100% continuity of service for flights crossing strike-affected countries.
"The Commission has a lot of soft power. They can lean on France. It doesn't need to be a law. We don't want legislation because it'll take 25 years here in Brussels... Does the EU have anything in its armoury to embarrass France?" O'Leary said.
"We met with the French government and asked for reforms but we got shrugged shoulders," he added.
Europe's biggest airline by passenger numbers said in a statement 57 days of ATC strikes during the first five months of the year forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights. The rate of strikes was 10 times greater than in 2022.
"France in particular uses minimum service laws to protect their domestic and short-haul flights while disproportionately cancelling overflights," Ryanair said.
French officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
O'Leary added the European Union should extend the carbon emissions tax on flights to transfers and long-haul flights that are far more polluting. Lawmakers in Brussels agreed last year to restrict the tax to flights within the European Economic Area.