French strike grounds hundreds of flights

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By NICOLAS GARRIGA, Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — Hundreds of Air France flights were canceled Tuesday — including 40 percent out of Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport — and the disruption is expected to get worse during a union strike over labor rights.

Air France forecast it could guarantee just 60 percent of its long-distance flights on Wednesday — the third day of the strike — after running about 70 percent of them on Tuesday.

The airline, among the world's biggest, said 70 percent of its short- and medium-range flights would be maintained.

Unions representing pilots, cabin, ground crews and others called the walkout to protest a proposed law that would require air transport workers to give 48 hours notice before striking.

A spokesman for the Paris airport authority ADP said most of the canceled Paris flights were announced to passengers the day before but there was also some last-minute cancellations. The airport sees about 1,500 landings and take-offs per day, he said.

At Paris' Orly Airport, about 15 percent of flights were canceled, the spokesman said. He wasn't authorized to be publicly named according to the airport authority's policy.

Red "canceled" signs dotted the huge screens greeting passengers to Charles de Gaulle, and long lines snaked out from the Air France service desk.

Carmen Devecchio of Italy reached Paris after a 24-hour journey from Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo. "I hope I have a chance to go back home today," she said.

But Italian airports were also struggling with unusually heavy snowfall.

Transport Minister Thierry Mariani says the bill is needed to protect passengers in a country where strikes occur regularly. The bill passed in the lower house of parliament last month and goes to the Senate later this month.

The conservative-led parliament passed a law a few years ago requiring a minimum level of service during strikes and early warnings ahead of walkouts on other public transport.

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Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

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