Fans of England and Wales heading to the Rugby World Cup face possible travel chaos as air traffic controllers’ union calls strike 

A planned walkout by French air traffic controllers could create Rugby World Cup travel chaos for several nations and their fans – including England and Wales.

The SNCTA, the country’s largest union representing air traffic controllers, has called for a strike on Friday, September 15, as part of an ongoing pay dispute.

It has also called a second strike on October 13, the day before the first two quarter-finals in Marseille and Saint-Denis.

The SNCTA said in a press release that they are calling for mobilisation in response to the, “silence of (civil aviation authority) the Direction générale de l’Aviation civile in the face of the current situation of inflation, despite repeated warnings from SNCTA”.

Related: Rugby World Cup venues 2023

Other unions could also call strike action in the coming days.

Where are England flying during France 2023?

England are scheduled to fly to Nice on Friday, September 15, for their game against Japan two days later. Wales, meanwhile, will already be the Côte d’Azur capital for their game against Portugal on Saturday, September 16. 

Fans of both teams may need to make alternative plans if they intend to fly in to France on September 15. And disruption may continue into the following day, if planes are unable to fly to their expected destinations.

England are based in Le Touquet, Normandy, for the duration of their World Cup, while Wales are in Versailles.

Related: Team bases for Rugby World Cup 2023 announced

Speaking at an event in May to mark 100 days to the start of the World Cup, World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said he was confident that organisers had plans in place for any contingencies: “Like every major event, we are planning all the time for a wide range of different scenarios, and protests of any nature are certainly part of that.

“Of course, it is an area of challenging concern, but it is an area we are planning for, and … we are working incredibly closely with the authorities in the various host cities.

He went on: “A Rugby World Cup over seven weekends, 48 matches in nine cities is a big undertaking, so we are pretty relentless about the planning from a safety perspective.

“We can reassure rugby fans that are travelling to France, or that will be in France for the tournament, that their safety along with the teams and the players are our top priority. The French government, the cities are all part of that effort.”

Alternate plans in face of World Cup travel chaos

But the disruption could mean that England face the possibility of a long rail or road journey instead of a relatively short flight.

Japan, who face England on September 17, meanwhile, are based in Toulouse. Wales’s opponents Portugal are in Perpignan.

The Times reported that England had hoped to spend a week on the south coast between their first two matches, in Marseille and Nice, but World Cup rules state teams must return to their base between matches, and their application was rejected.

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