France’s travel list changes and five updates for air and rail trips

Passengers blacklisted over ‘chargeback’ refunds, more winter routes and air crews to wear suits made from recycled plastic

20 October 2021

Ryanair has told customers who received chargeback refunds for flights not taken due to Covid restrictions that they must pay the money back before travelling with the airline again Pic: Peter Krocka, Romas Photo / Shutterstock

By Emma Morgan

Ryanair blacklists passengers who received ‘chargeback’ refunds

Travellers who booked Ryanair flights but were unable to travel due to Covid restrictions and who got their money back through ‘chargeback’ refunds have reported being prevented from travelling with the airline until they return the money. 

Chargeback refunds are issued by your debit or credit card company – American Express in this case – for a service which was not provided, and then charged to the retailer’s bank. 

The passengers in question were not entitled to a direct refund from Ryanair because the flights they had booked still went ahead. 

The people affected were able to reserve new tickets this year, but when they tried to check in or manage their booking, they found that they could not continue until they repaid the sum they had been refunded, which could be as much as £630. 

Matthew Glover, from the West Midlands, told MoneySavingExpert that he received a £632 chargeback for flights to France in summer 2020, before rebooking the holiday for this year. However, when he logged into his Ryanair account he was informed that he “owed” that money back. 

Mr Glover cancelled his flights but the £632 “debt” remains. 

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had initiated an investigation into Ryanair and British Airways over the refusal of refunds for flights that could not be taken due to lockdown restrictions. 

However, this has now been dropped because of a lack of clarity in the law and the cost of enforcement action. 

It is therefore unclear whether Ryanair should have automatically refunded the passengers who were unable to travel, and the company does state in its terms and conditions that tickets for flights that run as planned are non-refundable. 

British Airways, EasyJet and Jet2 say that they currently allow passengers to rebook flights if they are unable to travel, but the Ryanair passengers affected by the chargeback issue said that they were not given this option. 

Ryanair’s rival airlines also said that they would not prevent people who had sought a chargeback from travelling in the future. 

A Ryanair spokeswoman told The Connexion that: “The many millions of Ryanair customers whose flights were cancelled during the Covid-19 pandemic and who applied directly to Ryanair for refunds, which they received directly from Ryanair, will be completely unaffected by these measures.

“There is a tiny minority of passengers (less than 850) who purchased non-refundable tickets on Ryanair flights which operated as scheduled during Covid-19 but who chose not to travel and then unlawfully processed chargebacks via their credit card company. 

“These few passengers will be required to settle their outstanding debt before they will be allowed to fly with Ryanair again.

“This regretted restriction applies to only a tiny fraction of Ryanair’s 150 million passengers annually who chose to unlawfully break their booking agreements with us.”

France takes Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia off its red list 

The latest update of France’s traffic light travel rules has seen countries including Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria come off the red list. 

South Africa and Colombia have also been moved to amber. 

Red list countries are defined as territories where the virus “actively circulating” and there is “a presence of variants of concern.” 

In amber countries, there is “an active circulation of the virus” but to a “controlled” extent, “without a spread of variants of concern.”

Now, the red list consists of 10 countries: Afghanistan, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, Georgia, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Suriname and Turkey. 

Further information on the restrictions applied to passengers from green, amber and red list countries are available on the French government website

Flights to Canada increase for winter season

Air France is planning to introduce an extra flight from Paris to Montreal this winter, bringing the total number of daily flights to three. 

Between December 17 and January 9, there will be a flight leaving Paris-Charles de Gaulle at 18:15 and arriving in Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau at 20:15, before returning with new passengers to France at 22:15 and arriving at 11:15 the following morning. 

Air Canada will also be resuming services between Montreal and Lyon-Saint Exupéry on December 11, following a Covid-induced hiatus.

There will be up to five flights a week on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until January 9, 2022. 

Between January 13 and March 27 passengers will be able to travel on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, and then for the summer season flights will run on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. 

Services are set to leave Lyon at 13:00 and arrive in Canada at 15:20, returning with new passengers at 19:15 for an arrival time of 08:20 the following morning.

From Montreal, passengers will be able to connect to cities including New York, Boston, Miami, Orlando, San Francisco and Los Angeles.  

Read more: US announces border opening date for vaccinated EU and UK visitors

Lyon Airport boss Tanguy Bertolus said: “This is the only route (apart from Paris) which links France to Canada and the rest of North America. 

“This service reflects the recovery of France’s connections with international [destinations].”

SNCF ends plastic bottle sales on TGVs 

SNCF has announced that it will no longer be selling plastic bottles on its TGV and Intercité trains, opting instead for cartons and cans. 

The company currently sells two million bottles per year in its train bars, which is “a real paradox,” according to Voyages SNCF director Alain Krakovitch. 

“We are putting millions into making TGVs 97% recyclable and yet we sell plastic bottles,” he said. 

SNCF is also revising its TGV food offering, looking to favour organic and vegetarian options, preferably produced in France. 

Finally, the company says it is also developing new ways for people to recycle food in stations and therefore help reduce food waste. 

French airports look to revoke law banning shorter domestic flights

Airports in France are calling for the repeal of a law banning domestic flights when passengers can complete the same journey by train in less than two-and-a-half hours. 

Article 145 of the Loi Climat et résilience – which was adopted in July – will forbid “regular air transport services [...] within French territory when the route is also served by direct national rail links running several times a day and lasting for less than two-and-a-half hours” from March 2022. 

This will affect services between Marseille and Lyon and from Paris to Bordeaux, Lyon and Nantes, which account for “0.23%” of emissions created by domestic French flights, according to the president of the Union des aéroports français, Thomas Juin. 

France’s airports have this week appealed to the European Commission to revoke this ban, which is based on Article 20 of EU Regulation 1008/2008. 

However, Mr Juin believes that the French law is “legally unfounded,” as the EU regulation references a ban “in the case of serious environmental damage,” for “local, temporary reasons” not necessarily related to climate change.  

“The European law is being twisted in order to apply a measure which will in any case be ineffective from an environmental point of view,” he told AFP. 

Mr Juin also said that French airports are engaged with the fight against climate change, having committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. 

However, for climate activist association Réseau action climat, the air travel industry is “closing its eyes to the reality of its impact on the environment.

“In 20 years, air travel emissions have more than doubled,” and represent 5% of total greenhouse gas emissions.

EasyJet debuts uniforms made from recycled plastic

EasyJet has unveiled new pilot and cabin crew uniforms made from recycled plastic bottles. 

The low-cost operator says that it takes 45 bottles to make one uniform with a lifespan of about five years, creating the potential to save 2.7 million bottles from ending up in landfills or in the sea. 

Created by Northern Irish company Tailored Image, the uniforms are produced using “renewable energy sources and have a 75% smaller carbon footprint when compared to traditional polyester.” 

EasyJet is also replacing the plastic elements of its uniforms – such as clips and badges – with more eco-friendly alternatives.  

This comes as the airline looks to reduce the amount of plastic it uses on board its planes, offering, for example, a 50p discount on hot drinks to customers who bring their own reusable flasks and cups. 

Related stories 

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Eight updates for train, ferry and plane travel to and from France

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