France Asking Airlines to Reduce Flights by 50% on Tuesday

Flights to France threatened by pension protest

Blockade of refineries hits fuel supplies; Exxon Mobile says ‘the situation is critical’

MSNBC.com news services

Protest: Students vent their anger at the plans in Paris (Picture: AFP/Getty)

PARIS — France is asking airline companies to reduce flights in and out of the country by up to 50 percent on Tuesday, when unions have called for a day of national protests and strikes over pension reforms.

The French DGAC aviation authority said in a statement Monday that airlines were being asked to reduce flights to Paris’s Orly airport by 50 percent and to all other airports by 30 percent.

The announcement came as a growing number of pumps in French gas stations were drying up at the start of a second week of action by refinery and port strikers.

They have blocked fuel supplies as part of the campaign against the pension reform bill, which would raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62 and the age at which the full state pension is paid from 65 to 67.

The government says this is the only way to stem a ballooning pension deficit.

Rail workers, truck drivers, high-school students and other protesters also maintained pressure on French President Nicolas Sarkozy in a make-or-break week before Wednesday’s deciding Senate vote.

Unions called over the weekend to harden the protests, but the government said it would resort to force if necessary to prevent paralysis in the economy.

“When one sees the government’s tougher stance, it only reinforces the motivation of the troops,” one CGT union official for workers at Total’s refineries said. “As long as the government won’t budge, we won’t budge,” he added. It was unclear how many of France’s 12,000 stations were experiencing shortages.

“The situation is critical,” a spokeswoman with Exxon Mobil said. “Anyone looking for diesel in the Paris and Nantes (Western France) regions will have problems,” she said….. Continued on MSNBC.com (click here)