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New hand luggage rules and Wizz Air slated: 7 French travel updates

We also look at Air France’s planned withdrawal from Paris Orly, new European flights and how a ticketless train system works

Wizz air slammed by consumer magazine, new hand luggage rules, Paris Orly airport and free Montpellier trams Pic: Real_life_photo / Markus Mainka / Have a nice day Photo / Mike_O

You may have seen our recent articles on the new timeline for the EU’s EES and Etias border systems, TotalEnergies’ fuel price cap or the bomb threats at French airports - here are more travel updates.

Air travel updates:

Air France will stop flying to and from Paris Orly from 2026.

The airline will withdraw from the airport in the south of Paris in favour of Charles de Gaule airport to the north-east in a bid to streamline operations and reduce costs.

The withdrawal was initially announced in a tweet by politician Éric Ciotti, President of Les Républicans, who denounced it as “shameful” and “a scandal”. 

Air France has since confirmed that it will concentrate the greater part of its Paris operations at Charles de Gaule airport from 2026. Its flights to Corsica will continue to operate from Orly as will its low-cost wing Transavia.

The airline currently operates three routes from Orly: to Corsica, to Toulouse and to Nice. Flights to Toulouse and to Nice will fly from Charles de Gaule airport from 2026. 

 The airport, which was founded in 1909, has seen a progressive reduction in international flights for many years, becoming instead a base for Air France’s domestic flights.

However, domestic flights are not the lucrative market that they once were due to the decrease in business class travel following the Covid-19 pandemic and political pressure to favour rail over short haul flights.  

It is understood that the majority of Air France’s 500 personnel at Paris Orly will be offered posts at Charles de Gaule.

 

Wizz Air has the most unhappy customers of any airline, and the worst communication, says a damning report by consumer magazine UFC-Que Choisir.

The airline has turned a deaf ear to customer complaints for some years now, with a growing backlog of hundreds of unaddressed complaints piling up with the European consumer ombudsman, the Centre européen des consommateurs France (CEC).

“We have had no communication with the company since December 2021,” the CEC told UFC-Que Choisir.

In addition to not heeding complaints, the Direction générale de l’aviation civile (DGAC), which oversees airlines operating in France, found that the airline creates more unhappy customers than all of its rivals.

Unhappy customers per 100 flights:

  • Wizz Air -  1.34 
  • Ryanair - 0.53
  • EasyJet  - 0.36
  • Air France - 0.27

The DGAC called on the company to respect its obligations to consumers at a meeting in February 2023.

“We reminded them of the regulations and they made certain commitments to improve. However, we note that these commitments have not been respected,” the DGAC told UFC-Que Choisir. 

The DGAC says that Wizz Air will incur administrative fines if it continues to flout consumer needs.

 

Rules about hand luggage must be the same for all airlines, says consumer ombudsman the Centre européen des consommateurs France (CEC).

The announcement follows a vote in the European parliament on October 4 to establish a clear system for the dimensions and weight of hand luggage, in place of the current arbitrary rules enforced by airlines.

Passengers currently incur extra-expenses if their hand luggage is oversized, which can vary according to the airline.

For example:

  • Ryanair: 1 underseat bag - 40x20x25cm - No weight restrictions
  • Wizz Air: 1 underseat bag - 40x30x20cm - 10kg
  • EasyJet: 1 cabin bag - 45x36x20cm - 15kg
  • Air France: 1 cabin bag - 55x35x25cm - 18kg 

The CEC says that the vote should oblige the European Commission to apply a 2014 Court of Justice of the European Union judgment that declared hand luggage to be “an indispensable element of passenger travel” that could incur no extra cost “if it corresponds to reasonable requirements of size and weight.”

While the resolution voted by Euro-MPs is non-binding, the wheels of European bureaucracy are in motion to create a standard hand luggage size that should remove potentially hidden fees.

Volotea will fly from Lyon to Greece and Portugal in summer 2024.

The two new summer destinations for the low-cost Spanish airline were announced this week.

  • Lyon-Saint Exupéry to Porto from April 12 to October 2024 with two flights per week
  • Lyon-Saint Exupéry to Kalamata from April 17 to October 2024 with one flight per week

“We are very happy to announce these new routes from Lyon to Greece and Portugal… which come in addition to the four new destinations announced at the start of October, “ said Volotea France manager Gilles Gosselin in a statement.

Volotea had previously announced new routes from Lyon to Oslo, Naples, Rhodes and Marrakech.

Flights to the new destinations can be booked on Volotea’s website from €40.  

 

The price of plane tickets has increased by an average 6% in a year, according to official figures.

While flights to all destinations are more expensive than they were last September, the rise is more significant for domestic flights within France, which have risen by 14.4% on average.

International flights are 4% more expensive.

The report by the Ministry of Ecological Transition found that while the price of international flights had decreased over the summer, they have since risen again, with a marked 7.3% increase for flights within the EU and to the UK. 

The only flights to have seen a decrease were those to South America, which are 5.7% lower than last year.

The greatest increases in price were for flights to Martinique (17%) and to Guadeloupe (19.1%), which were not categorised as domestic flights for this report.

Public transport updates:

Public transport in Montpellier will be made free for residents.

Buses and trams will be completely free all year round from December 21, 2023, making the city the first in France to offer free public transport.

Announcing the move, Socialist mayor of Montpellier Michaël Delafosse was jubilant:

“From 19:00 [on December 21] my 2020 campaign promise will be made a reality: public transport will be free in the city of Montpellier. It will be a big boost to both people’s purchasing power and to their concern for the climate,” he said.

“You’ll see! This movement will spread from here.”

Residents will be able to claim their free transport pass either online or in at TAM Montpellier transport store by providing:

  • An identity card (or carte de séjour)
  • An id photo
  • Proof of address (eg. a utility bill)

At present, 40 % of CO₂ in Montpellier comes from road traffic. 280,000 car trips are taken each day, a number which the mairie says it hopes will decrease thanks to the free pass.

Visitors and non-residents will still need to buy bus and tram tickets.

Transport passes are very much in vogue after President Macron declared his intention to introduce a national flat-rate bus and rail pass in summer 2024.

Train travel updates:

The SNCF is experimenting with ticketless train travel in Nouvelle Aquitaine.

The system, called ‘Just Go’, requires a smartphone with the SNCF Connect app installed, which is detected when passengers climb aboard a TER.

Passengers must then accept a notification from the app, which tracks their movement and calculates a ticket price based on how far they have travelled.

The app bills passengers each month based on their total rail use.

Just Go will automatically check if the price and distance travelled would be less expensive with a railcard, and if this is the case, automatically charges the rail card price rather than that of the tickets.

The system is being tested in Nouvelle Aquitaine, however developers SNCF Connect & Tech, hope that it will soon be introduced elsewhere.

TER trains are financed by the regions, which means that pricing and administration can differ widely from one region to another. 

“Our mission is to deploy the system progressively to all regions as soon as they accept it,” said SNCF Connect & Tech director Anne Pruvot.

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