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UK-France flight cancellations, ferries, Navigo: eight travel updates

Airline staff shortages cause disruption, France-Channel Island ferries resume, the Paris-Charles de Gaulle Express train gets the go ahead and more 

We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week. Pic: Bychykhin Olexandr; MisterStock; Allard One; ALLYOU Grzegorz Wasowicz / Shutterstock

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

1. British Airways cancels UK-France flights amid staff shortages

British Airways has cancelled more flights from Heathrow as the airline struggles to rehire enough staff to cope with increased, post-Covid restriction demand.

Cancelled services include some flights from the London airport to Lyon, Nice, Toulouse and Paris. 

The airline has said that it will be reducing its offering up to the end of June to improve the reliability of the remaining services. It added that it is calling off flights with a low number of passengers on well-frequented routes to reduce disruption. 

BA made around 10,000 staff members redundant during the Covid lockdowns but since restrictions eased it has quickly moved from running 30% of its normal offering to 80%, and is finding it difficult to recruit. 

Other airlines including EasyJet have also had to cancel flights in recent weeks, as a high number of staff fell ill with Covid.

2. Airline strikes: how much can you claim in compensation? 

This month thousands of air passengers have been affected by airline strikes, with Volotea and Ryanair flights particularly affected by delays and cancellations. 

Volotea has promised passengers who were affected by the strikes a “€100 voucher” and “a complete refund of their fare.” 

In addition to this, it should also be noted that impacted customers may be eligible for compensation to the tune of €250-€600, depending on the length of the flight. 

This applies to flights involving an EU departure or destination airport, operated by an airline headquartered in the EU. 

For flights of up to 1,500km, passengers are entitled to up to €250 if they are delayed for more than three hours, if their flight was cancelled with less than two weeks’ notice or if they reached their destination three or more hours late because they missed their connecting flight. 

For journeys of 1,500-3,500km, the compensation available is €400, and for journeys of more than 3,500km, it rises to €600.

Compensation can still be claimed even if the airline issues you with vouchers. 

Read more: French flights disrupted by Volotea strike

3. Dover-Calais P&O passenger ferries still suspended as freight resumes

P&O passenger ferries are still not running between Dover and Calais today (April 29) and now unlikely to restart until May 11. 

The firm is advising passengers who had booked onto a P&O service today to “Please call us on 01304 44 88 88 and we will rebook you [onto a DFDS crossing].

“Alternatively, if you do not wish to travel, please email help@poferries.com and we will process a refund for you.”

This comes after one Dover-Calais ship, the Spirit of Britain, was cleared to sail again by maritime authorities after being detained on April 12 having failed a safety inspection. 

Read more: One P&O Dover-Calais cleared to sail but services still suspended

There had been reports that passenger services would resume next week but P&O has told passengers that the first sailings will not take place until May 11. 

“We have one ship back sailing on this route for freight and another one will be starting soon too,” it added. 

Sailings may still be reduced on the cross-Channel route when passenger services resume, as three other ships are still waiting to pass safety checks.

P&O Ferries were first suspended between Dover and Calais on March 17 when the company sacked 800 of its UK crew without notice.

Read more: French P&O staff protest in Calais over sacking of British colleagues

4. Navigo passes acquire car hire feature 

It is now possible to hire a car in Paris through the car sharing platform Communauto, using your Navigo card. 

In order to do this, you will need to go to the Ile-de-France Mobilités app, where you will be able to reserve a car in the ‘autour de moi’ (around me) tab.

After booking, you will be able to go to the pick-up point and unlock the car using your Navigo pass. The car will come under the name ‘Ile-de-France Autopartage’, and identifiable by stickers on the windscreens.

The service has been available on Android devices since April 21, and will come to iOS devices in May.

The cars used are eco-friendly models, whether electric, hybrid or petrol-powered, and come under the Crit’Air 1 category. 

Read more: A guide to Crit’Air stickers in France

5. Court approves plans for Paris-Charles de Gaulle Express train

Plans for a direct train line between the centre of Paris and Charles de Gaulle Airport have been approved by the Cour administrative d’appel appeals court. 

In its judgement, the court reversed a previous decision, commenting in a statement that “contrary to the conclusion of the administrative tribunal, the project is justified because of its compelling public interest,” which “allows it to depart from the provisions [...] of the Code de l’environnement concerning the protection of animal species.”

This comes in response to objections from the local authority of Mitry-Mory (Seine-et-Marne), who argued that the line would pass through areas inhabited by protected species. 

Previously, an administrative court in Montreuil (Seine-Saint-Denis) had ruled in November 2020 that work on the line be stopped because the infrastructure was not “indispensable” and would destroy biodiversity. 

Work on the CDG Express line will now resume and should be completed by 2026. It will eventually cover 32km and link Charles de Gaulle to Paris’ Gare de l’Est in 20 minutes, with a service running every 15 minutes. 

It currently takes around 35 minutes to get from Charles de Gaulle to Gare du Nord on the RER B line. 

6. Controversial Lille Airport extension project approved 

Plans to extend and modernise Lille-Lesquin Airport have been approved by an investigative committee, despite opposition from local residents and climate campaigners. 

The project is one of the most controversial urban development schemes to have been presented in Lille, which currently houses the 13th biggest airport in France.

The airport’s activity already has an impact on 33 different communes, who have all objected to the extension plans.

In 2019, 30,000 planes flew over the houses of local residents, with 2.2 million people passed through the airport. The developers now wish to boost this number to 3.9 million by 2039.

“The objective is not to develop but to prepare for the future because the airport is continuing to develop itself,the management has said. 

“It has so far recovered 80% of its 2019 level of activity, and forecasts for the coming months suggest that the world will continue to travel, and we will have to offer suitable conditions [for passengers].”

The investigative committee judged that “the positive effects of the ‘modernisation’ project will exceed the potentially negative impacts.” 

However, the committee report also expressed concerns over noise pollution, which is the disturbance most often cited by residents, especially at night. 

The committee stated that the hours of darkness “dedicated to rest, are not sufficiently respected under current conditions,” with at least 55,000 residents directly affected. 

With regards to the effect on the local environment, the report also made reference to the tarmacing of surfaces and the pollution that could be produced accidentally during the extension works. 

The committee therefore asked that the developers establish measures to limit the environmental impact.

This was not sufficient for opponents to the project, with the mayor of Bouvines, Alain Bernard, saying that the committee’s decision was a “huge disappointment,” but “the battle is not over.”

7. Crossings between France and Channel Islands resume 

The ferry service linking the Channel Islands to northern France has resumed after a two-year pause linked to the Covid pandemic. 

The first crossing from Barneville-Carteret (Manche) to Jersey took place yesterday (April 28), with 110 passengers on board the ferry. 

One passenger told France 3: “It’s one of the things that we do a lot here so it is nice to be able to do it again after a while.”

Olivier Normand, who is cofounder of the DNO ferry company, said: “We have needed to remobilise everyone over 2021 to prepare for our 2022 resumption. As everyone was waiting impatiently for this it has not been difficult to get the crew back on track.”

Mr Normand told the BBC: "It's a real pleasure and very exciting for us to restart the crossings from France to the Channel Islands. It is very exciting for our team, our staff and for the clients.

"There are strong links between the Channel Islands and Normandy - economical, historical and cultural links and the crossing is just one hour so its very easy to join the islands."

In 2019, 110,000 people made the journey from France to the Islands, whose tourism sector is looking forward to their return. 

“We wanted to be reunited with our French cousins [so] we can reconnect with France and our customs, which have links to Normandy,” said Alex Dolan, who owns several hotels in Jersey. 

French nationals should note that, since Brexit came into effect, they now need a passport to be able to travel to the Channel Islands.

8. Air France plans Paris-Nice flight in wide-body Boeing 777 

Flight scheduling data suggests that Air France is set to operate a 430-mile domestic flight from Paris to Nice in a wide-body Boeing 777 in June.

The Boeing 777 is the world’s largest twinjet, with space for three classes and a cabin which accommodates 10 seats in each row and is used mainly on long-haul flights.

Selecting this plane to operate a domestic route appears to be a strange choice, as Airbus A320 narrow-bodies are the planes which normally transport passengers between the two cities. 

The Connexion has contacted Air France for further information on this scheduling. 

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