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Hundreds of flights canceled in day 3 of French aviation strike

PARIS — Air France canceled up to 40 percent of its long-distance flights Wednesday because of a strike by pilots and other personnel over their right to hold unannounced walkouts.

The airline is recommending that passengers postpone any flights planned through Friday, when the strike is expected to end. It's costing the company, one of the world's leading airlines, €8 million to €10 million ($10.5 million to $13.1 million) per day, an Air France official said.

Flights operated with partner airlines in the Skyteam alliance are also affected by the cancellations, an official with the Paris airport authority said.

As the strike entered its third day Wednesday, Air France said it expected to run 60 percent of long-haul flights and 70 percent of medium and short-range flights worldwide. The airline normally operates about 1,800 flights a day.

Paris' Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports saw six flights canceled at the last minute Wednesday morning in addition to those announced the night before, the official with the Paris airport authority said. She was not authorized to be publicly named because of the agency's policies.

The airports, normally bustling with global air traffic, were emptier than usual because of the canceled flights. But passengers who weren't warned ahead of time of cancellations expressed frustration and desperation.

"There's no solution, now it's our vacation that's ruined," said Norman Sicolt, who traveled to Charles de Gaulle from his hometown of Troyes in central France in the hope of boarding a flight to Thailand.

"We have been at the sales desk of the company, but there are no flights before February 12," he said.

The striking workers — including pilots, cabin and ground crews — are protesting a draft law that would require air transport workers to give 48 hours notice before going on strike.

The government argues the bill is needed to protect passengers in a country where strikes occur regularly. A similar law concerning strikes on other public transport went into effect in 2008 but doesn't affect air traffic. The bill goes to the Senate on Feb. 15.

Representatives of leading unions and the Transport Ministry are expected to meet on Friday to discuss the bill, according to the SNPL pilots' union.

Philippe Vivier, a vice president at SNPL, said the aim of the government is "to stop strikes in all the small companies" that work in air transport services.

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