The four-day stoppage has been triggered by government moves to raise the retirement age.
The strike by Air France pilots, due to last until midnight on Monday (April 17th), as passengers stranded by cancelled flights struggled to find alternative ways of reaching their destinations.l
Two-fifths of Air France's long haul flights and half its other services have been left firmly on the ground by the start of a four-day strike by pilots.
The fliers are furious at government plans to raise their retirement age from 60 to 65.
Thousands of travellers have been stranded by the stoppage which appears to have taken many by surprise.
SOUNDBITE: Severine Dubalais, stranded passenger, saying (French):
"We had an Air France flight at seven o'clock which was cancelled just as we were boarding the plane. The pilot hadn't shown up so we've been put on another flight but there are no guarantees we'll have a pilot then. We're just waiting."
SOUNDBITE: Alessandro Radici, stranded passenger, saying (English):
"I come from Italy so I thought that Italy was bad in terms of strikes but now I know that France is even worse. It's incredible."
The French government says the European safety authority is to increase the age of retirement for pilots to 65 so it would have been forced to follow suit in any case.
The striking pilots are unrepentant.
SOUNDBITE: Georffroy Bouvet, Air France Pilot and spokesman for the French Pilots' Union ALPA, saying (English):
"We go on strike because the deputies - members of parliament - decide a day at midnight to change the law about the age of retirement for pilots and with no negotiations and no ideas of what could happen for employment in our profession."
Air France says the stoppage is likely to cost the company nearly 125 million dollars and branded the action useless and dangerous.
Paul Chapman, Reuters
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