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Dover queue warning, flight prices rise: 7 France travel updates

Fears continue over impact of EU’s incoming Entry/Exit System, change to France-US air routes, Paris transport criticised and more

We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week Pic: Credit: S Kozakiewicz, Soos Jozsef, EQRoy, DavidFM / Shutterstock

We look at stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week.

A one-day nationwide general strike disrupted travel around the country yesterday (September 29) but public transport should now be back to normal. 

The strike was called for by three national unions who demanded an increase to the French minimum wage and higher pensions, among other things. 

Read more:

French workers explain why they joined general strike
What to expect from nationwide French strike 

 Elsewhere, Montpellier airport re-opened on Monday afternoon after a two-and-a-half day closure after a cargo plane missed its landing and nearly ended up in a nearby lake. 

 Read more: Montpellier Airport flights restart after plane almost landed in lake

Dover boss warns again of impending queues due to new checks

Doug Bannister, the head of the Port of Dover, has warned again of the risk of long queues caused by the EU’s incoming Entry/Exit System (EES), which is due to come into effect in May 2023. 

When the system is introduced, non-EU citizens entering the block – including Britons – will have to have their passport and biometric details such as fingerprints registered so they can be recorded. 

This will enable authorities to automatically determine how many days the person in question may remain in the EU. 

Read more: Logistical concerns over EU Entry/Exit System due to start in autumn

Read more: Dover Port boss warns of safety issues and delays with new EU checks

Dover bosses have previously raised concerns over the implementation of these checks, saying that it may mean ferry passengers having to get out of their cars to have their photos and fingerprints taken, resulting in longer waits and a potential health and safety risk. 

Mr Bannister has now said that the introduction of the system might mean “a tough start” to summer 2023.

"Dover's the place in the UK where this really bites," because juxtaposed border controls mean that French passport checks happen in the port rather than on the other side of the Channel.

He added that checking one car carrying four people could take up to 10 minutes – two minutes for each passenger and another two minutes for the car.

However, the port does not yet know how it will carry out the controls. 

The Port of Dover’s Head of EU Exit, Tim Reardon, previously told The Connexion that a tablet could be handed into cars for passengers to record their fingerprints and use facial recognition to validate a person’s passport details. 

Mr Bannister repeated this idea to the BBC but added: “But we haven’t seen it. So we don’t know for certain.

"You can imagine trying to hand that around a car. And in particular if you've got children in the back, how do you get them to do it properly? Maybe somebody's asleep in the back, you need to wake them up."

He said that the potentially complicated system would likely lead to “more congestion events than we have had this year.” 

Mr Bannister then asked that the government engage with France and the EU generally to find a way to take the process away from the port.

Mr Reardon told The Connexion in May that: “Before you can start doing something you need to know what the thing is. At the moment we haven’t got to square one.”

Plane fares rise sharply in France 

The price of a plane ticket for an international flight has risen by nearly 40% over a year in France. 

If all destinations are taken into account the increase comes to 36% on average, but domestic flights have risen less – at 29% – than international flights at 39.8%.

Tickets for flights heading for other European destinations have increased by 51.3% on average.

This latest data comes from flights taken in August, but estimates by travel agency MisterFly show that September flight prices have risen by around 28% year-on-year. 

American flights added and taken away from French schedules 

Air France has announced that it will not be running a Paris-Orly - New York JFK route this winter, as it prepares to launch a Paris-Charles de Gaulle - Newark service. 

The Orly-JFK route is currently operated up to six times a week after being relaunched in March following a Covid-related hiatus.

However, from November 1, the route will not be available. The airline opens its Charles de Gaulle-Newark service on December 12.

By mid December, Air France and Delta will be offering up to nine daily flights between Paris and New York, as well as other services to cities including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and Seattle.

Delta will also be launching a New York-Geneva flight in the spring as well as the resumption of its Los Angeles-Paris service, which was suspended during Covid. 

The airline has not covered the New York-Geneva route for 30 years. Flights will begin again on April 10, 2023.

Protest against Marseille airport extension 

Environmental campaigners protested against an extension to Marseille-Provence Airport on World Tourism Day this week (September 27). 

Activists held a ‘funeral march’ demonstration between the Vieux-Port and the Chamber of Commerce in La Canebière in the old town, drawing attention to an exhibition looking back over the airport’s 100 years of existence. 

Posters advertising the exhibition and hung outside the Chamber of Commerce were covered with banners reading ‘RIP extension aéroport - STOP tourisme en masse’.

“This action was to denounce the project, for the sake of the climate, for the population who live around the airport and who put up with noise pollution,” a member of the ANC Cop 21 protest group told Actu.fr.

Several organisations – grouped under the title ‘Stop extension aéroport Marseille-Provence’ – are calling for work on the airport to be stopped, although an official decision on the matter has not yet been reached. 

“The planning permission is within the rules and the appeal [to stop the project] is not suspensory but administrative, so there is no reason to prevent work from starting,” said Philippe Bernand, the president of the airport’s board of directors.

No trains between Brest and Saint-Brieuc this weekend 

There will be no trains running between Brest and Saint-Brieuc in Brittany for 24 hours this weekend (October 1-2) as a result of work being carried out.

The line will close in both directions on Saturday at 13:10 and will reopen on Sunday at 12:40. A rail replacement bus service will be put in place.

The Quimper-Brest line may also see some disruption, with some trains also being replaced by buses.

SNCF Réseau will be replacing a hydraulic structure on the Paris-Montparnasse-Brest line around Plouigneau, near Morlaix.

“This operation will enable us to make the infrastructure durable, improve the regularity of services and maintain a high level of safety,” SNCF has said.

You can find out more about the disruption on TER BreizhGo.

Rennes airport celebrates successful summer post-Covid

Rennes Airport says that it has seen a “clear resurgence in activity” this summer after two years marked by Covid restrictions. 

The airport saw 123,000 people pass through it in July and August, equating to “three quarters of its pre-pandemic traffic”.

More than 30% of these passengers were travelling to international destinations, a “comparable” figure to before the pandemic began.

The most popular service is the Rennes-London Gatwick, which will continue running throughout the winter.

Ile-de-France councillors call for overhaul of Paris public transport

Three regional councillors from Ile-de-France have expressed alarm at the disorganisation of Paris’ public transport system, calling for a rapid review of policies in an opinion piece published in Le Monde

Charlotte Nenner, Ghislaine Senée and Jean-Baptiste Pegeon wrote that the chaos caused by late trains, breakdowns and other problems have left commuters “on the verge of a nervous breakdown”. 

“At a time of climate crisis and inflation, low-cost, low-pollution public transport should be a priority for our public policies,” they wrote. 

The RER B line only managed to be on schedule 73% of the time in August, according to the councillors, breaking a monthly record. 

This was due to various technical issues as well as staff shortages. They also said that trains on the RER D line were regularly late. 

The three councillors blamed local politicians as well as the SNCF for these issues. 

“There is an urgent need to review transport priorities,” they wrote. 

“Abandon unnecessary or less useful projects now, repair existing transport, review pricing to make it fairer and find new revenues to secure the future. 

“It's time for a complete overhaul.”

Related articles 

UK-France Eurostar capacity cut by a third due to post-Brexit checks

London-Bordeaux trains, winter flights: Eight France travel updates

Montpellier Airport flights restart after plane almost landed in lake

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