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‘Britons behind on new EU visa-waiver rule’: 10 France travel updates

We also look at a new France-UK air route, a train that forgot to stop (twice), a reinforcement of flight delay rights and more

We look at stories affected journeys to, from and around France this week Pic: EQRoy / Real_life_photo / olrat / Ivan Marc / Shutterstock

We look at stories affected journeys to, from and around France this week. 

Ouigo passengers can now resell their seats 

SNCF has launched its Ouigo Swap service for its low-cost TGV trains, enabling passengers to resell their ticket in exchange for a voucher worth 80% of its cost. 

The rail operator has introduced this new system to reduce the number of empty seats left by the 10% of customers who do not make their train reservations, and to allow greater flexibility for passengers. 

People wishing to swap their ticket can go onto the Ouigo website or app, find their booking through ‘Mes réservations’ and clicking on ‘Libérer la place’ (Free up the seat).

It should be noted that once this has been done you cannot retract. However, in order to receive your partial refund the ticket must be sold on (at the original price).

People hoping to buy tickets will be able to do so up to 23:59 the day before the journey, or sign up to a waiting list and be notified by email if a place becomes available. 

Since the initiative was launched, 100,000 people have already signed up to Ouigo Swap waiting lists, but SNCF has not shared details on the number of tickets having been resold. 

Wizz Air launches new UK-France route 

Low-cost airline Wizz Air is to open a new route between Lyon and London-Gatwick in January 2023. 

This is Wizz Air’s sixth route from Lyon, and it will remain open until March 25, with four flights per week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. 

Wizz Air will be in competition with British Airways and EasyJet on this route. 

From Gatwick, the airline already flies to Grenoble. 

This comes as EasyJet announces a new route between Rennes and Lisbon, in addition to its Porto-bound services. 

The route will run until March 25, with three flights per week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. 

EasyJet will be the only airline operating this route. 

Poole-Cherbourg ferry stops for winter break 

Brittany Ferries’ Poole-Cherbourg ferry service has made its last crossing of the year before its winter break. 

The Barfleur ship carried out its last cross-Channel journey for 2022 on November 4, having returned to service in March following the Covid crisis.

The ferry will begin operating again on this route from March 31, 2023.

9 in 10 Britons do not know about incoming Etias system, study suggests

Some 93% of British holidaymakers do not know about the EU’s incoming Etias travel authorisation scheme – set to be introduced in November 2023 – a study by Direct Line Insurance, reported by The Telegraph, claims. 

Read also: EU’s Etias travel authorisation system start date put back again

Etias is an EU tracking system that will monitor the movements of non-EU citizens living in countries which do not need a visa for short visits to the Schengen Zone. This group of travellers will soon have to apply for authorisation before they travel to the bloc. 

This will be the case for British, American and Australian passport holders, for example. 

After a traveller fills in the application form online – a process which is expected to take about 10 minutes – their details will then be checked against EU information systems. 

Up to 95% of applications are expected to be approved within minutes, but if further checks are required, the process could take up to two weeks.

When the person begins their journey to the EU, passport control officers will scan their travel document data electronically, triggering a query to Etias. If they have received prior approval they will be allowed to proceed, if not they will be refused entry.

Etias will be similar to the US’ Esta visa-waiver; applications will cost €7 and approval, once obtained, will remain valid for three years. Under-18s will not have to pay a fee, but must still gain Etias approval.

The Office for National Statistics states that in 2019, over 66.9 million visits to EU countries were made by British people. 

Direct Line’s Tom Bishop told The Telegraph that: “It seems sensible to use the remaining months until the new rules come into force to ensure people know about the visa-waiver, including how and when to apply.

“This would be especially relevant for those travellers with limited online access.” 

Air France warns customers about competition scam 

Air France has warned of a scam in which passengers receive a WhatsApp message inviting them to take part in a competition with the chance of winning two free tickets to a European destination. 

The message reads: “C’est le Black Friday des cadeaux Air France !” (It’s Black Friday for Air France presents!) and asks recipients to answer questions on the airline before choosing from a selection of ‘boxes’ in the hope of winning the tickets. 

Unsurprisingly, every box contains the supposed tickets, but in order to collect them, the person must share the promotion with five groups or 20 contacts, and enter details including their address. 

This enables the scammer to obtain some of the person’s personal information, and is an example of a phishing scheme. 

Flight cancellations: passenger rights reinforced

A passenger’s right to compensation in the case of a significant flight delay also applies to connecting flights operated by different airlines, as long as they were booked in a single reservation, the EU Court of Justice has ruled. 

Compensation claims management company AirHelp states that 25.67% of passengers from France were affected by delays between January and August, and that nearly two million European flights departed more than three hours late in the same period. 

It is once a delay hits the three-hour mark that passengers can be eligible for compensation ranging between €250 and €600, under EU legislation. 

Recently, the European Court of Justice heard the case of a passenger who had bought plane tickets for a Stuttgart to Kansas City journey through a travel agent. 

Their route was split into three separate flights: Stuttgart to Zurich, Zurich to Philadelphia and Philadelphia to Kansas City. 

The person’s electronic ticket displayed American Airlines as the service provider – even though the first flight was operated by Swiss International Airlines – and had a single booking number. 

The travel agent had also issued a bill reflecting the total price of the flights rather than the individual fares. 

The passenger was delayed for more than four hours in Philadelphia, and so demanded compensation of €600 under EU regulations. 

However, their request was refused, American Airlines claiming that it had not carried out the full journey and so was not affected by EU laws as the delay had happened in the US. 

The EU Court of Justice ruled in the passenger’s favour, judging that connecting flights sold under one combined ticket should be viewed as a single unit. 

Thalys France-Belgium trains disrupted  

Many trains have been cancelled on the Thalys train network between Paris and Brussels because of “problems with the equipment”, and passengers are also being affected by delays. 

Today (November 11), there are no trains between Paris and Brussels, going in either direction. 

The situation was worsened by the impact of a Belgian national strike on November 9. 

This disruption is set to last until Monday (November 14). 

If you are affected by a cancellation, Thalys should offer you an exchange – free of charge – or a refund, as long as your tickets were bought on its site. You will need to call the operator to obtain this.

The Amsterdam-Rotterdam line is also subject to disruption, which will last until November 15, because of works on the tracks. This means that trains must run at 40km/h over 15km, causing delays of around 10 minutes to every journey. 

Brest Airport passenger traffic surges in 2022

The number of passengers moving through Brest Airport (Brittany) has increased by 31% in the last year, with 688,000 people travelling to or from there since the beginning of 2022.

However, passenger traffic is still 35% lower than before the Covid crisis. In 2019, 1.2 million people passed through the airport. 

By the end of 2022, the figure should reach 800,000. 

This is compared to 462,000 passengers in the height of the Covid pandemic in 2020.

“Volume is not our priority. We think in terms of connection to our region rather than the number of passengers,” the airport’s director Claude Arphexad said. 

Train ‘forgets’ twice to stop at Normandy station 

The 16:07 train between Rouen and Caen has failed to stop at Serquigny (Eure) on two separate occasions: on September 15 and November 3. 

SNCF has said that it does not know why this happened, but told Ouest France: “People who wanted to get off at Serquigny got off at Lisieux at 17:13. We suggested that they take the next train in the other direction. Normally it is a direct train for Rouen, but it stopped at Serquigny.” 

The operator said that it was “sorry” for this situation, and that affected customers would be offered some form of compensation if they made a claim on the local TER website. 

Ryanair joins Hidden Disabilities Sunflower network 

Ryanair has joined the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower network, meaning that people wearing a lanyard decorated with these flowers will be able to access additional help from cabin crew and airport staff. 

Ryanair has said that it has also put in place a training programme helping staff to learn about hidden disabilities and how they can make plane journeys easier to manage. 

The airline added that each year it transports 1.5 million people who need extra assistance. 

This comes as Ryanair announces a net profit of €1.37billion over the six months to September 30, compared to a loss of €50million for the same period last year. 

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