We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week.
One important story this week relates to the fact that Air France cabin crew unions have called for strike action on December 22 and January 2.
The industrial action would be in protest against the renegotiation of the collective cabin crew workplace agreement, which relates to their working conditions, pay and progression, and which expired in October.
Several meetings between unions and airline bosses are scheduled to take place between now and the proposed strike dates, and if an agreement is reached the action may be called off.
Warning over Etias visa-waiver scheme scams
EU authorities are warning the citizens of over 60 countries who will be concerned by the new Etias visa-waiver system from November 2023 to be vigilant against scam websites pretending to be the official page or offering ‘intermediary services’.
The EU has issued guidance suggesting that there could be “attempts to mislead applicants into believing that their site is the official channel for submitting an Etias application,” The Times reports.
The fraudulent websites could impose additional fees for unnecessary intermediary services.
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 EU nations outside the Etias system are Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania.
Etias will be combined with a parallel EU Entry/Exit System (EES), which will collect biometric and other information about passengers as they enter the Schengen area.
People applying for Etias authorisation when it comes into effect should remember that they can fill in the form on their own and should only be charged €7.
SNCF offers half-price advantage cards
National rail operator SNCF has announced a sale on its carte Avantage railcards, which until November 28 are priced at €24.50 as opposed to the usual €49.
This applies to the carte Avantage jeune, adulte and senior – whether they are being bought for the first time or renewed – and means that the card will likely pay for itself with the first journey.
A carte Avantage enables passengers to access 30% discounts on single journeys within France or Europe taken on weekends, in the week with a child or return journeys including an overnight stay on a weekend.
It also means a 60% discount for up to three accompanying children aged between four and 11 and capped fares for all second-class tickets.
Journeys taking less than an hour and a half will therefore cost no more than €39, those lasting less than three hours will be no more than €59 and longer trips will be capped at €79.
New routes announced from French airports
Ryanair has announced new winter routes between Limoges and Marrakech, between Clermont-Ferrand and Fes and between Toulouse and Rabat.
Air France will also be launching new services from Paris - Charles-de-Gaulle to Tokyo and to Seoul in winter 2023.
The South Korean route will be served up to four times a day, and the Japan-bound flight will run four times a week in December 2023.
Low-cost American airline JetBlue has announced flights between Paris - Charles-de-Gaulle, New York-JFK and Boston from summer 2023.
Finally, Air Arabia has announced a new direct route between Marseille-Provence and Cairo, opening on December 16.
Flights will run twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays.
Occitanie confirms €1 weekend train ticket once a month
When the French refinery strikes were affecting fuel supplies at petrol stations across the country, the Occitanie region offered €1 train tickets on its regional services for two weekends.
The scheme saw 182,000 tickets sold, with 131,000 on the second alone, marking a record number of passengers five times higher than usual.
Occitanie’s regional council has now decided that it will continue offering this price on the first weekend of every month on all of its TER ilO services.
Tickets will also be sold for €1 during air pollution peaks to encourage people to use the train instead of their car.
The president of the region Carole Delga has said that through this initiative the region hopes to increase “people’s desire to take the train”.
“The climate emergency creates a vital need for a rail revolution.”
SNCF-Voyages Occitanie’s regional director Philippe Bru added that among the passengers who took advantage of the €1 offer in October, “nearly 20% had never taken the train” and half would not have travelled otherwise.
The new scheme will come into effect from the first weekend of December.
Paris Olympics’ ‘flying taxi’ completes first trial
A first trial of a ‘flying taxi’ service which could potentially be used during the Paris 2024 Olympic Games took place last week in the Aérodrome de Pontoise.
The drone-helicopter aircraft, called Le Volocity, was manufactured in Germany and is 100% electric. It will be able to transport one passenger alongside the pilot, for a price which has yet to be confirmed.
The manufacturer has said that between 2028 and 2030, members of the public may be able to begin flying them independently.
It makes four times less noise than a standard helicopter, and takes up less space, meaning that it is easier to take off and land.
The flying taxi is expected to carry out journeys between Paris and Versailles, (Issy-les-Moulineaux to Saint-Cyr l’École) and between Charles-de-Gaulle airport and a barge on the Seine at Quai d’Austerlitz.
It is expected that around 10 Volocities will be deployed for the Olympics, with each being able to do two or three flights per hour thanks to their replaceable batteries.
In the long term, flying taxis may also be useful to medical services, acting as ambulances or transporting transplant organs or blood.
First they must obtain authorisation from the Agence européenne de la sécurité aérienne.
Toulouse Airport takes energy-saving measures
Toulouse-Blagnac Airport has launched an energy-saving plan through which it aims to reduce its electricity consumption by 3% and its heating usage by 20%.
It will follow government instructions by keeping its indoor temperatures to 19C in rooms where people work, 18C in public areas and 16C overnight and in unoccupied spaces.
Lights, advertising screens and escalators will be switched off between 23:00 and 05:00.
The airport has already reported a cumulative reduction of 17% in its electricity usage since 2012, and aims to bring this up to 20% this winter.
Petition against possible ban on Paris e-scooters
A petition has been launched in protest against a potential ban on rental e-scooters in Paris when the current contract expires in February.
At the end of September, David Belliard, the deputy mayor in charge of transports suggested that the city authorities could choose to ban the devices in response to the serious accidents which have occurred since they have been on offer, as well as their questionable ecological record.
He gave the three e-scooter companies operating in Paris – Lime, Tier and Dott – a few weeks to address these concerns.
The operators have asked for a meeting with the mayor, having suggested measures including a vehicle registration system and ID checks on users.
Lime and Dott have already started to register their vehicles, which will help to more easily identify customers committing offences such as riding on pavements or using one e-scooter between two.
Erwann Le Page, Tier’s director of public affairs, told Le Figaro: “Washington has just increased its fleet of scooters by 40%, London has reached the end of a year-long trial [...] If Paris banned this service, it would be going against other big capital cities.
“It would be hard to understand such a decision by Paris, as 88% of Parisians consider scooters to be a daily means of transport and 62% believe that management of the service has improved,” Lime commented.
A rider in Paris has now launched a petition and around 18,000 people have signed it.
Proponents of the scooters argue that they are helpful for people with disabilities and women wanting to get home quickly and safely at night.
One person said that they have “changed the atmosphere of Paris,” making it “cooler, more playful, more fun!
Residents call for stop to night flights from Bordeaux Airport
A Bordeaux residents’ association is calling for an end to night flights from the city’s airport, arguing that the noise disturbs people’s sleep.
Jean-Claude Godain, the president of the association, said: “We are asking for a stop to night flights between 23:00 and 06:00 in the morning.”
Since Covid restrictions were lifted, passenger numbers have been steadily increasing at Bordeaux-Mérignac, which also means growing noise pollution.
Low-cost airlines have also begun announcing new destinations from Bordeaux, with EasyJet opening a Copenhagen route.
However, the airline has pointed out that its last flight of the day leaves at 22:35 and its first goes at 06:00.
The airport has argued that it is still far from reaching its 2019 traffic levels, with this year’s five million passengers just over half the eight million who passed through in the year before the pandemic.
However, it has said that it is necessary to reduce the number of night flights running.
Eurotunnel increases price of coach travel
Eurotunnel has released its coach rate calendar for 2023, with prices increasing and an end to cheaper ‘short stay’ returns.
All journeys are now sold as singles priced at up to £1,100 for peak times.
Dave Parry of Parrys International Tours has predicted that this will result in more coaches opting to take the ferry across the Channel instead of Eurotunnel.
The increased price of Eurotunnel coach tickets follows a limit imposed over the summer on the number of coaches that could travel at one time.
The removal of ‘short stay’ returns will in some cases almost treble the cost of travelling via Eurotunnel on day trips and weekend tours, because the outbound and inbound journeys will have to be bought as singles.