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Christmas travel France: latest on air and rail strikes

Staff from Air France, Eurostar, SNCF and the UK Border Force workers are all planning industrial action

Air France cabin crew unions have maintained their strike notice as negotiations with the management failed to reach an agreement. There remains around a week for talks to take place Pic: hanohiki / Shutterstock

People hoping to travel to the UK or around France this Christmas may face strike action. We list the protest action currently planned. 

Air France

Unions representing Air France cabin crew are maintaining a strike notice issued for the period between December 22 and January 2 as talks with management fail to reach an agreement. 

The SNGAF and Unac unions have reiterated their call to strike, stating: “We are maintaining our strike notice as nothing has changed for three weeks.” 

Air France cabin crew are protesting against the fact that their collective employee agreement on working conditions, pay and progression, which expired in October, was extended by a note from the company management. 

Read more: Air France cabin crew threaten strike action over Christmas break

“The bosses can modify this note unilaterally from one day to the next, which could mean changes to our working hours or our pay, without consulting us,” Unac’s Anne Vildy said. 

The airline has promised that it will not change anything until negotiations on a new agreement have come to an end, which will happen in March 2023 at the latest.

It has also presented unions with a court ruling stating that such a note cannot be changed. “In reality, the company has issued a note from the management lasting for an indefinite period, which gives us no protection,” Sébastien Portal of SNGAF argued.

There remains around a week in which the airline can continue talks with unions in the hope of avoiding protest action. 

If and when a strike does occur, it is not certain how widespread it will be. The full scale of any action will only be known 48 hours in advance when airline staff must declare their intentions.

In September, Air France offered a 5% pay rise and a €1,000 bonus for its employees but this may not serve to lessen the number of workers who choose to strike. 

Domestic flights are the most likely to be cancelled or disrupted as there are often various alternative routes for passengers. Long-haul flights are less likely to be affected.

UK Border Force 

UK Border Force officials who check the passports of people arriving in the country plan to strike on December 23, 24, 25, 26 (until around 07:00), 28, 29, 30 and 31 (until around 07:00). 

This will affect Birmingham, Glasgow, Gatwick, Cardiff, Heathrow (Terminals 2-5) and Manchester Airports and the Port of Newhaven.

The UK government has said that military personnel, civil servants and volunteers are being trained to support the Border Force to help reduce the impact of the strike.  

“However, those entering the UK should be prepared for potential disruption,” it added, explaining that they will face “longer wait times at UK border control”. 

“All passengers should check the latest advice from their operators before travelling.”

Heathrow Airport has said, however, that the strike should cause minimal disruption, with Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye saying: “We are doing everything we can to protect full operating schedules on Border Force strike days, and departing journeys and the vast majority of arriving journeys should be unaffected. 

“We have extra people in the terminals on the busiest days, including me and my management team, to ensure we get people on their way as smoothly as possible and start to bring the joy back into travel.”

 Some flights could be rescheduled for a few hours earlier or later to reduce pressure on the system, The Independent reports. 


UK Eurostar security staff represented by the RMT union plan strike action for December 16, 18, 22 and 23. 

Read more: UK Eurostar security workers to strike in lead-up to Christmas

Around 100 workers employed by the contractor Mitie are expected to participate, causing “severe” disruption to Eurostar services to and from St Pancras, the RMT has said.

The staff are walking out over a pay dispute, with RMT general secretary Mick Lynch arguing that they “are essential to the running of Eurostar, and it is disgraceful they are not being paid a decent wage.

"They work long unsocial hours and a multimillion-pound company like Mitie can easily afford to pay them decently for the essential work they do.”

SNCF trains 

French rail union SUD-Rail has issued a strike notice for its signal worker members for December 15-19 but Transport Minister Clément Beaune yesterday (December 12)  said that “there will be trains”. 

“I am confident that people in France will be able to take their holidays by travelling on public transport,” he told France 2. 

Regarding the rail network, he said: “We are not anticipating severe disruption. There may be some but we are working flat out to avoid it, to minimise it. There will be trains and will are making it so that the slight possible TGV disruption is prevented.”  

Rail worker unions have previously threatened to extend the strikes up to New Year.

Related articles 

UK Border Force strike, new air routes: Eight France travel updates

Pay rise agreement averts French EasyJet Christmas strike

Would January’s controlled power cuts affect French airports?

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