We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week.
One significant story this week relates to SNCF Jeune, Adulte and Senior rail advantage cards, which are under a near 50% discount offer until Monday (August 29). SNCF has not said when on Monday the deal will end.
This means that the cards are currently €25 as opposed to €49.
SNCF fares to be available in instalments from next summer
SNCF has said that it is developing a function which will from next summer enable passengers to pay for tickets in instalments if they cost more than a certain amount.
The operator has said that this threshold may be set at €50, which would mean that the new system would mostly apply to long-distance journeys rather than regional trains, Le Figaro reports.
SNCF hopes that this will prevent people from having to cancel their journeys because they do not have the funds to pay for them. According to SNCF Voyageurs CEO Christophe Fanichet, “from the 20th of each month, the most common reason for a failed payment is ‘insufficient funds’.”
The instalment system will be launched on the SNCF Connect app, and is not expected to be available at station ticket counters.
Rail has been the most popular means of transport among French people this year, with more than 22 million tickets reserved in July and August alone, 10% more than in 2019.
However, there have been complaints over ticket prices, which increased by 14.6% on average between April 2021 and April 2022, the state statistics institute Insee has stated.
SNCF has argued that a growing number of passengers use advantage cards, and so do not pay full price for their tickets.
Heavy traffic this weekend as holidaymakers return home
People driving back to big urban centres from popular holiday areas this weekend should be aware that the roads are expected to be very busy.
Traffic forecasting service Bison Futé has stated that today (August 26) will be “very difficult” for journeys heading away from holiday destinations such as the Mediterranean coastline and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.
Drivers departing from big urban centres should, however, see normal traffic conditions, apart from along the Mediterranean coastline, where they will be “difficult”.
Tomorrow (August 27) will also be “very difficult” for return journeys, and “difficult” in terms of departures in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.
On Sunday (August 28), congestion should ease slightly, with conditions being “difficult” across France apart from in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, where they will remain “very difficult”.
The A7 and A8 motorways will be particularly congested as well as the A10 between Bordeaux and Paris.
British Airways cancels more Heathrow flights
British Airways has cancelled a further 5,000 return short-haul flights to and from Heathrow from October up until the end of March.
The airline is also cutting a dozen round trips each day – 629 flights – until the end of October.
This is because Heathrow airport has capped passenger numbers at 100,000 per day and has asked airlines to adapt their schedules accordingly. This will last at least until the end of October.
BA has said that it is “protecting key holiday destinations over half-term.”
Passengers affected by the cancellations will be offered a seat on a different flight operated by BA or another airline, or a refund.
In total, BA has reduced its May-October schedule by 13% and its winter schedule by 8%.
BA has also made some changes to the service which enables some passengers flying from Heathrow and Gatwick to drop off their bags the night before their departure.
BA’s Gatwick routes include Bordeaux and Nice, and its Heathrow routes include Geneva, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Paris and Toulouse.
At Heathrow, overnight bag drop is now available at both Terminal 3 and Terminal 5, but only for flights departing before 10:00 the next day, rather than 13:00 previously.
Passengers can drop their bags off between 16:00 and 22:00, compared to 18:00-21:00 previously.
At Gatwick, overnight bag drop remains available between 18:00 and 21:00 for flights departing before 13:00 the next day.
BA is also now allowing passengers at both airports to drop off bags for others in the booking. Until now, all of the passengers under the same reservation had to be present.
However, the person bringing the luggage to be checked in must bring all of their required documentation with them, including passports and Covid test results if necessary.
Insolvency Service will not start criminal proceedings against P&O
The UK Insolvency Service has said that it will not be initiating criminal proceedings against P&O Ferries after the company sacked 800 UK crew members in March without notice.
An Insolvency Service spokesperson said: “After a full and robust criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the employees who were made redundant by P&O Ferries, we have concluded that we will not commence criminal proceedings.”
The Service had been asked by the government to investigate whether P&O had failed to notify of the sackings in accordance with the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
This criminal investigation concluded that there was no realistic prospect of conviction. A civil investigation is still ongoing.
EasyJet launches new seasonal Rennes-Lisbon route
Low-cost airline EasyJet has announced that from November 1 it will be offering flights between Rennes and Lisbon.
This route will be served until March 25, 2023, with three flights a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
EasyJet will be the only airline offering this connection, with 30,000 seats on offer over the winter.
Eurostar appoints new boss to lead Covid recovery
Eurostar has announced that it has hired a new chief executive to continue leading the cross-Channel operator’s Covid recovery.
Gwendoline Cazenave will succeed Jacques Damas on October 1. She will also head up the Eurostar Group, which is responsible for developing the proposed merger between Eurostar and Thalys.
Ms Cazenave previously worked as an executive at SNCF.
The SNCF’s Christophe Fanichet and Alain Krakovitch stated: “We have complete confidence in Gwendoline Cazenave to lead the business, continuing the positive journey of recovery put in place by Jacques Damas.
“We warmly thank Jacques for his determined approach with all of his teams.
“He successfully led Eurostar out of an unprecedented situation, which saw 95% of its activity on hold for 15 months, and officially put in place our new business structure.
“The ambition is to transport 30 million passengers per year within 10 years under a single brand, Eurostar, with excellence in customer service at its heart.”
SNCF buys new TGV trains for travel in France and beyond
SNCF has ordered 15 new TGV M trains from manufacturer Alstom, to add to the 100 already bought four years ago.
It has said that the new trains will help respond to growing demand and enable the operator to launch services outside France, perhaps to Germany or Italy.
“We are planning that this type of TGV will be able to go everywhere in Europe,” Christophe Fanichet, CEO of SNCF Voyageurs, said.
The new trains will also enable the operator to meet its objective of doubling train travel’s share of all French transport passengers by 2030, in order to better address the climate crisis.
The TGV M is set to enter circulation in 2024, but it is not known when the extra trains, which come at a cost of €590million, will begin running.
TGV M trains will be able to accommodate 20% more passengers, and will have changeable seat formations allowing carriages to switch from first to second class.
They will also consume 20% less energy than previous models.
Air France criticised for non-respect of security rules
Concerns have been raised over “a certain culture” on some Air France planes, in which staff do not pay sufficient attention to safety procedures, a new report has said.
The report came from the Bureau d’enquêtes et d’analyses (BEA), which is in charge of investigating incidents on planes, and highlights recurring issues on some Air France services.
It makes reference to “a certain culture entrenched within some Air France teams, which tends towards an inclination to underestimate the value of a strict application of security procedures.”
It also calls on the airline to “put respect for these procedures back at the centre of the safety culture of the company.”
The report also refers to an incident which took place on December 31, 2020, during a flight between Brazzaville (Congo) and Paris, when a fuel leak was detected and the plane was forced to land in N’Djamena (Chad).
However, the crew did not observe the ‘FUEL LEAK’ procedure, which involves cutting the engine closest to the leak. “Cutting the engine [...] was deliberately left out by the crew,” the report said.
“This decision created a significant fire risk,” which was only avoided “by chance”.
The BEA stressed that it was only an “extremely limited” number of crews which were subject to investigations, and that those concerned have recently shown that they can carry out safety procedures effectively.
Air France has said that it has taken all of the points raised by the report into consideration, and has already put some suggestions into practice.
Reopened Paris-Vienna train service proves popular
Rail services linking up Paris and Vienna were relaunched last winter, and now 80% of seats are booked on the night trains covering the route.
The journey can take up to 16 hours, and involves a meal served on real plates, costing around €10 per meal.
Seated tickets begin at €29.90, while shared compartments with bunks start at €49.90 and private compartiments at €89.90.
The trains stop in Strasbourg, Munich, Salzburg, Linz and St Pölten before arriving in Vienna.
Travelling in this way produces 51 times less CO2 than a plane journey covering the same distance.