We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week.
1. Leave extra time if flying from certain airports this summer
Airports in France, the UK and across Europe are struggling to cope with holidaymaker traffic as post-Covid demand surges. As a result passengers are being advised to leave extra time to get through to their flight.
In general, affected airports are recommending that people arrive at least two to three hours before their flight, but warn against getting there too early, as this could create unnecessary queues.
Airports made “15-20% of staff” redundant when travel restrictions were preventing people from going abroad, and now are finding it difficult to recruit new employees to keep up with the swift recovery of the aviation sector.
“Forecasters did not expect such a strong air traffic recovery,” Thomas Juin of the Union des aéroports français told Ouest France this week. “In certain French airports, like Beauvais, the traffic will be even more intense than in 2019.
“We are observing a problem with understaffing on the ground, including security staff, handlers and shop assistants.
“The majority of airports, and in particular the bigger ones, are expecting that the quality of their passengers’ experience will inevitably be affected by this staff shortage.” Some flights could even be cancelled.
Aéroports de Paris is attempting to recruit 4,000 new staff members but many ex-airport employees have found new careers during the pandemic, opting for jobs which do not oblige them to work unsociable hours.
In addition, “security personnel”, for example, “require between three and five months of training and two rounds of state vetting.”
Problems have also been widely publicised at Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester Airports in the UK with queues stretching for hundreds of metres outside the doors of the latter, and people having to wait two hours to get through security.
Queue for security at @manairport now stretching outside the Terminal building. As a regular user of the airport, I could describe my experiences as of late, but I usually refrain from swearing on Twitter. pic.twitter.com/CuyY5ICOYI— Ryan Hoey (@RyanPHoey) May 9, 2022
Hundreds of people have reported having missed their plane to the UK media.
Manchester Airport is currently advising passengers to arrive three hours before their flight, while Birmingham and Gatwick are suggesting that they get to the airport as soon as their check-in opens.
In the Netherlands, KLM cancelled 70 flights to and from Amsterdam-Schipol on the first weekend in May because the airport was overwhelmed with the number of passengers.
2. Bordeaux cheapest major French city for public transport
A new study has rated major French cities according to how expensive their public transport systems are, finding that Bordeaux is the cheapest.
Maintenance service provider Distrelec looked at the price of a monthly public transport pass, a litre of fuel and a taxi fare per kilometre in France’s 10 biggest cities.
It found that Bordeaux is the cheapest, with a monthly pass costing €38, compared to €75 in Paris, which was the most expensive city.
Fuel was also cheaper in Bordeaux, at €1.95 per litre, while everywhere else it was €1.99-€2.
Lyon was the second-most expensive city in terms of public transport, with a pass costing €65. Then came Lille, Nantes and Toulouse.
Down at the bottom of the table were Montpellier and Nice, whose monthly passes were priced at €45 and €40 respectively.
In terms of taxi journeys, Strasbourg proved to be the cheapest place, at €0.75 per kilometre, followed by Montpellier at €0.82 and Nantes at €0.83.
Surprisingly, Lille and Toulouse were shown to be more expensive than Paris in this regard, with taxi fares coming in at €1.90 and €2 per kilometre respectively, while in the capital they were €1.65.
3. Irish Ferries puts fares up to cope with rising costs
Irish Continental Group, which owns Irish Ferries, has announced that it is putting its prices up in response to increased operational costs.
The group stated that it had been impacted by higher fuel prices and charter rates.
“In order to maintain adequate returns to drive further development, it has been necessary to pass these increased costs through to customers,” it said.
It did not add how significant the price increase is.
The company also reported that its revenue has increased by 80% to €161million in the first four months of 2022 compared to the same period last year, as passenger and freight traffic have surged following the end of Covid restrictions.
This was partly due to the launch of Irish Ferries’ Dover-Calais route in June 2021.
However, the company’s net debt also increased by €30million to top €174million. It put this down to the fact that it has recently invested in two new vessels.
Irish Ferries will also be impacted by the British government’s announcement that it will soon introduce a bill aimed at requiring ferry companies operating in UK ports to pay their employees UK minimum wage.
This is because the company currently employs agency staff and is registered in Cyprus so does not have to pay the minimum wage of either Ireland or the UK.
4. Paris-Normandy train disruption expected on Ascension weekend
SNCF has warned that trains running between Paris and Normandy will be disrupted on Ascension weekend (May 25-29), because of modernisation works at Mantes-la-Jolie (Yvelines).
This will notably affect trains on the Paris-Rouen-Le Havre, the Paris-Caen-Cherbourg and Paris-Trouville/Deauville routes.
On all of these routes, passengers should expect their journey to take an extra 30 minutes, and there will also be fewer trains running.
SNCF advises passengers to travel on the Wednesday evening (May 25) or the Thursday morning (May 26), and to return on the Sunday after 16:00 if possible.
In some cases, replacement buses may be provided instead of trains. You can find out more about the timetable changes on the SNCF website.
The works are part of the RER E extension project.
5. P&O Ferries still on one ship schedule on Dover-Calais route
P&O Ferries is still only operating one passenger ferry on its Dover-Calais route after a second was cleared to resume sailings this week.
The Pride of Kent has passed its safety inspection by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) after being detained for six weeks and failing previous checks in March and April.
However, P&O Ferries has informed passengers that there will only be one ship – the Spirit of Britain – sailing until May 17 at the earliest.
“If you’re travelling and the time provided is not suitable please call to discuss your options,” the company has said.
If you are booked onto a P&O service, you can keep up to date with sailing times on the company’s Twitter page.
Before it was finally cleared to sail, the Pride of Kent was found to have a record 47 deficiencies, including dirty working conditions, rescue boats which did not work and issues with fire safety systems.
Crew were found to have a “lack of training” and a “lack of familiarity” with how to operate the ferry.
A P&O Ferries spokesman said: “We take the safety of our passengers and crew very seriously and look forward to all of our ships welcoming tourist passengers and freight customers again.
“We would like to thank the MCA for their continued engagement in assessing our ships to ensure they meet the highest safety standards.”
Two of P&O’s Dover-Calais ferries remain detained, and have not yet undergone safety inspections.
6. P&O crisis causes Eurotunnel traffic to surge
Eurotunnel has said that it saw a significant spike in passenger and freight traffic in April because of the suspension of P&O Ferries Dover-Calais services over the whole month.
The number of lorries using Eurotunnel’s Le Shuttle Freight service was up 14% on April 2021, totalling 128,980.
Passenger traffic also increased by 450% compared to the same time last year but this is also down to the fact that Covid restrictions on movement were still in place in April 2021.
Some 204,069 passenger vehicles travelled with Eurotunnel last month, the highest number since summer 2020.
As a result of this high demand, Eurotunnel has decided to limit the number of coaches that can travel on its shuttle service at least for the peak summer period, but perhaps permanently.
“Coaches require the equivalent of five car spaces on board our shuttles but can carry many more passengers. That means that they take much longer for the border authorities to process…which leads to delays for following vehicles and sometimes to them missing their booked slot,” a Eurotunnel spokesperson told Route One.
7. Air France relaunches Paris-Denver route
Air France has resumed its Paris-Denver route for the summer season, bringing its total number of US destinations to 14.
The airline is offering three weekly flights to the Colorado capital, on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
Air France is the only airline to serve this route, which it operates along with flights to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington.
The company will be running nearly 200 weekly flights to the US this summer, “20% more than in summer 2019.”
“The great open spaces of Colorado, the possibility of hikes which will take your breath away, the historic railways and our rich Wild West history are particularly appreciated by French visitors,” said Tim Wolfe, director of the state’s tourist office.
8. No more pre-departure tests for vaccinated travellers to overseas departments
Fully vaccinated people travelling between metropolitan France and its overseas departments will no longer have to present the negative result of a test taken before their journey from today (May 13).
Unvaccinated travellers will also no longer be required to have a compelling reason for their trip, although there has been no mention of testing obligations being removed for them.
The only exceptions to this rule relaxation are two French islands Wallis and Futuna.
“Mask-wearing will no longer be obligatory during journeys, including in planes,” the health ministry said in a statement, adding however, that masks “remain an effective means of protecting oneself and others in enclosed spaces.
“This relaxation reflects the improvement of the epidemic situation on a national scale and the decline in hospitalisation rates, even if the fifth wave is still not over and everyone must remain vigilant.”