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Best (and worst) airports, new UK route: Nine France travel updates

We also look at a new service matching ferry travellers with knowledgeable locals in France, expected strikes and a surprising pilots’ cockpit fight

We are covering a bust up between two Air France pilots, a new Brittany Ferries’ service, airport taxi rates and a re-opened regional train line Pic: LongJon, Lukas Wunderlich, David Peter Robinson, Photoagriculture / Shutterstock

Montpellier Airport best in France, new study suggests

Montpellier-Méditerranée Airport is the best airport in France for customer satisfaction, a new study suggests. 

Holiday booking site Holidu researched the airports given the best ratings and reviews by passengers on Google. 

The results placed Montpellier at the top, with an average rating of 4.1 out of 5 according to 1,482 reviews. 

It was followed by Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées (Occitanie), Pau-Pyrénées (Nouvelle-Aquitaine), Calvi-Sainte Catherine (Corsica) and Brest-Bretagne (Brittany). 

The other airports in the top 15 were: 

  • Perpignan-Rivesaltes (Occitanie) 
  • Nice-Côte d’Azur (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur)
  • Toulouse-Blagnac (Occitanie)
  • Ajaccio-Napoléon-Bonaparte (Corsica)
  • La Rochelle-Île de Ré (Nouvelle-Aquitaine)
  • Lille-Lesquin (Hauts-de-France) 
  • Rennes-Bretagne (Brittany)
  • Paris-Charles de Gaulle (Ile-de-France)
  • Bastia Poretta (Corsica) 
  • Strasbourg-Entzheim (Grand Est)

With four airports in the top 15, Occitanie performed best out of all the French regions, with Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Corsica rounding out the top three.

The worst airport, according to the study, was Bordeaux (Nouvelle-Aquitaine), which received an average score of 2.7/5 and whose customers complained of a lack of seats at departure gates and poor organisation. 

Beauvais (Ile-de-France) and Figari Sud Corse (Corsica) also performed badly.

A new airport to open near London?

An old RAF base in Manston (Kent) that was closed in 2014 may soon be reopened as an airport. 

The site’s owners RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) are set to invest £500million in developing the airport and are in talks with low-cost airlines KLM, easyJet and Ryanair.

RSP director Tony Freudmann said: “If you take operators like Ryanair and easyJet, their problem is that at Gatwick, Luton and Stansted, there are no more [take-off] slots between 06:00 and 07:00. 

“If you cannot take off before 07:00 in the morning, it compromises the day. So, they base their planes at Southend, and it will be the same in Manston.” 

In this way, RSP hopes to target businesspeople who want to get to their destination early in the morning. 

Work on the new airport will begin next year, in the hope of launching freight operations in 2025. 

Brittany Ferries launches holidaymaker-local matching website

Brittany Ferries has launched Livelocal.fr, a website which promises to match holidaymakers with local French hosts who can act as tour guides to their area. 

“Livelocal is a project that is all about the three Ds: diversification, digital and destination,” explained Christophe Mathieu, Brittany Ferries CEO. 

“Think of it like a dating website for travellers, introducing them to memory-makers in the form of local hosts who offer a holiday activity that’s exciting and sustainable.

“It’s not about replacing what makes a destination attractive like its beautiful beaches, historic castles or fantastic shopping. It’s about surfacing some of the best-kept secrets known only by those living and working locally. It will help turn a good holiday into a truly great one.”

Livelocal hosts currently offer cultural, sporting and heritage activities in Brittany, Normandy, Pays de la Loire and Nouvelle-Aquitaine, although the scheme may be extended in the future.

The excursions are not free and cost between €15 and €70, depending on the type of activity and the number of people. 

Mr Mathieu added that Brittany Ferries is actively looking for more hosts “who want to pass on their passion for their region through their local knowledge”, and that people who are interested should write to contact@livelocal.fr

Ryanair announces new Birmingham route 

Low-cost airline Ryanair will be launching five new winter routes from Toulouse Airport in late October and early November. 

Passengers will be able to travel to Rabat in Morocco, with flights on Tuesdays and Saturdays, apart from in December and January, when the frequency will be reduced to one weekly flight. 

Ryanair will be the only airline serving this route. 

It will also be possible to fly from Toulouse to Luxembourg on Fridays and Sundays and Birmingham on Mondays and Fridays until the end of March. 

Ryanair’s other new winter routes will be Toulouse-Krakow – twice a week – and Toulouse-Tenerife, also twice a week. 

Both of these services will last until the end of March.

Bologna-Guglielmo Marconi Airport had been set to be linked up to Toulouse this winter, but it no longer features on the destinations list.

Ryanair flies to 30 different places from Toulouse-Blagnac.

Public transport strikes around France this September

A series of public transport strikes is expected around the country in September as transport and public services workers demand better working conditions. 

Strikes are due to be held this weekend in Clermont-Ferrand, Lille, Tours, Pau, Caen, Le Mans, and Toulon. 

It means there will be disruptions to trains, buses, trams and any other types of public transport. 

French trade union the Confédération Générale du Travail has stated that public transport workers are “overworked”. The union wants workers to continue strikes throughout September. 

Airport taxi fares on the rise 

Airport taxi fares are increasing across Europe, with some French airports among those most affected by inflation, according to a new survey by Airmundo of 50 airports.

Four London airports come in the top 10 most expensive airports for taxis, along with Paris-Charles de Gaulle in tenth place. 

Then come Lyon in twelfth and Paris Orly in 24th. Switzerland’s Geneva Airport is 21st. 

The average price for a trip into the city centre was €45, and since summer 2021 it has increased by 10%.

The prices are associated with increasing fuel costs and the rising cost of car maintenance. 

Read more: Price of car repairs and tyres rising sharply in France

Two Air France pilots suspended after fight in cockpit

Two Air France pilots have been suspended from flying after an altercation in which “inappropriate gestures were exchanged” while flying between Geneva and Paris in June. 

The incident occurred shortly after take-off, while the plane was still ascending, when one pilot refused to follow an instruction. 

The two men then grabbed each other by the collar. They remained in the cockpit.

“The incident quickly came to an end without affecting the plane’s movements or security,” Air France has said.

Company management will now decide what will happen to the pilots.

This comes after a recent report from the Bureau d’enquêtes et d’analyses, which is in charge of investigating incidents on planes, and which called for the airline to “put respect for procedure back at the centre of [its] safety culture”.

The report referred 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”.

Lufthansa to try to minimise impact of pilots’ strike

Airline Lufthansa has said that it will do all it can to limit the impact to passengers of a pilots’ strike that is set to start today (September 2). 

The union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC), which is asking for a 5.5% salary increase for its pilots, stated on Wednesday that its negotiations with the airline’s management were not successful. 

Lufthansa defended its propositions, saying it wanted to find solutions.

The airline has offered to increase base salaries by €900 per month in two steps over a period of 18 months. It has also suggested an agreement to guarantee staff a minimum fleet size. 

Strikes and staff shortages have already led to airlines in Europe, including Lufthansa, cancelling or delaying thousands of flights this summer. 

Tours-Loches train line to reopen after works 

The TER train line between Tours and Loches (Indre-et-Loire) has reopened after 10 months of works aimed at modernising the rail infrastructure.

Passengers can choose from six round trips each day. Train driver Vincent Payen has said that since the works the trains can travel faster and the journeys are smoother. 

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