Flight deals, ‘cockroaches in trains’: eight France travel updates

We also look at this summer’s most popular holiday destinations, gourmet plane meals, a boost to a UK air route and more

From first-class dining on planes to maggots and cockroaches on trains, we bring you the latest French travel news
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New Geneva-Newcastle EasyJet route to open this winter

EasyJet has announced that it will be launching a seasonal route between Geneva and Newcastle this winter.

Flights will be available between December 10 and March 25, 2023, with two services running each week.

Passengers will be able to travel on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

EasyJet will be in competition with Jet2 and TUI on this route.

The airline already flies from Geneva to Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Southampton.

Rail union criticises unsanitary Lyon-Paris train conditions

A French rail union has criticised the conditions on board Ouigo trains, claiming they are unsanitary.

The CGT-Cheminots Lyon-Perrache branch has issued a statement co-signed by its Bordeaux, Paris Montparnasse and Paris Gare de Lyon counterparts.

“With Ouigo trains, the reality is that we are no longer capable of ensuring decent travel conditions and guaranteeing that the trains are clean for passengers and, by extension, that working conditions are acceptable for rail workers,” it said.

The union has said that there have been reports of cockroaches, maggots, out-of-service toilets and malfunctioning air conditioning on some trains, especially the 774 which runs between Lyon and Paris.

The poor cleanliness on Ouigo trains can partly be explained by the fact that there is less time in which to clean them.

“Over the course of a day, Ouigo trains travel many more kilometres than classic TGVs,” CGT-Cheminots Lyon-Perrache secretary Abdelkader Bensadoun told BFMTV.

“These trains travel constantly in one direction or another and they have very short breaks for maintenance.”

SNCF, which owns Ouigo, refuted the allegations.

The group says it is "astonished” by CGT's comments, which only “fuels a controversy”.

“The problems have been identified, are already solved or are being solved. It is not as bad as it is described,” SNCF stated.

“For air conditioning, the reliability rate is currently 99%. That leaves 1%. In the event of a breakdown, bottles of water are distributed or passengers are moved to another car.

“As for the toilets, there are eight in a Ouigo train, so that leaves alternative solutions if some are closed.

SNCF is to meet with representatives of CGT to discuss the problems.

Good, fair or lacking: How clean have you found French trains? Tell us atnews@connexionfrance.com

The most popular holiday destinations for people in France this summer

Malta has been revealed to be the most popular destination for people travelling from France in July and August this year, according to a new study.

The survey, which was carried out by travel agency Opodo, looked at the countries or towns which people in France had booked most over the summer period.

Second was Porto, while the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, came fourth. In between them was Ajaccio in Corsica.

Other island towns to feature on the top 10 list were Bastia (Corsica) in eighth and Palma de Mallorca in seventh.

In France, 65% of people head for the coast, according to an Ipsos poll carried out in June. As a result, 23% of French holidaymakers book holidays in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, 20% in Occitanie and 18% in Nouvelle Aquitaine.

French trains are more often delayed now than in the past

The punctuality of French trains has decreased significantly since 1954 when such data first became available, a new study by the Autorité de la qualité de service dans les transports (AQST) shows.

Passenger numbers have also tripled in this period while the French population has only increased by 52%.

The frequency of delays varies depending on the region of France, with Ile-de-France seeing a tenfold increase, long-distance lines seeing a fourfold increase and regional trains a twofold increase.

The declining punctuality of French rail services can be explained in part by the ageing network. For example, in many stations, the signalling system is not equipped to deal with the number of trains now passing through.

Delays can also be put down to a growing number of trains travelling on the network: French lines are three times busier now than they were in 1954.

For safety reasons, trains must be kept at a certain distance from each other in case they need to come to a sudden stop, and so bottlenecks can occur. When one train is forced to brake, there is a knock-on effect on the trains behind it in the line.

Punctuality is also affected by crowds of passengers in stations, all trying to get onto the same service. When people block doorways, take a long time to get on and off and forget their bags, significant delays can develop.

In 1954, there were 200 passengers on each train on average, while today there are 450.

Finally, SNCF has drastically reduced its staff numbers since 1954, when there were 400,000 people working for the operator. Now, there are 150,000.

The fewer staff there are, the less smoothly a service runs.

Heathrow passenger limits: Ryanair to add 500 Stansted flights

Low-cost airline Ryanair has announced that it will be adding 500 flights from Stansted for the October half-term holiday to make up for the passenger number restrictions currently imposed by Heathrow Airport.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said that the extra flights would make room for 100,000 passengers who can no longer travel from “hopeless” Heathrow.

This week, Heathrow announced that it would be extending its current 100,000-passenger-per-day cap for a further six weeks to October 29 as staff shortages make it difficult for the airport to keep up with demand.

“While hopeless Heathrow continues to mismanage air travel, Ryanair and London Stansted will continue to grow and deliver,” Mr O’Leary said.

The airport recently asked airlines to temporarily stop selling tickets for their scheduled flights in order to prevent the terminals from being overwhelmed by passengers and services being disrupted.

Read more:British Airways suspends Heathrow-France ticket sales until August 15

Ryanair has said that it and Stansted have “more than sufficient staff to handle these additional flights during the autumn mid-term break.”

French destinations served from Heathrow include: Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Nice, Ajaccio and Geneva.

Ryanair flies to cities including Nantes, Tours, Poitiers, La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Brive, Bergerac, Toulouse, Nîmes and Nice from Stansted.

Ryanair launches €20 promotional flights to three destinations from France

Ryanair is launching a post-summer promotional offer to three city destinations from France: Budapest (Hungary), Vienna (Austria) and Tangiers (Morocco). Flights will start from €20, although exact pricing will depend on the day / time.

The offer ends on September 5.

“We are delighted to offer our customers 45,000 seats from just €19.99 with over 240 routes to choose from,” Ryanair’s marketing director Dara Brady said.

Eurostar closes customer phone lines until end of August

Eurostar has closed its customer service phone lines until the end of the month so that its staff can address a backlog of queries and booking changes.

Eurostar’s bookings fell by 95% as a result of the Covid pandemic but it has since begun to make a strong recovery, especially as UK airports struggle to cope with a post-restriction surge in passenger demand.

A company spokesperson told MyLondon: "We have made efforts to add 52% more employees to our contact centre in the last 12 months and we are making improvements to our digital tools to enable more customers to manage their needs quickly and easily online.

“In August, we will be focusing on online contact only. By doing this, we can respond to the existing build-up of enquiries and better prioritise urgent requests as they come in.

“Where needed we will call customers directly. We are planning to resume telephone contact and will update on the timing as soon as we can."

Currently, customers who call the customer service department are met with a message telling them to use an online contact form.

Watchdog London TravelWatch stated that it is “concerned” by the company’s decision and that: “We will continue to liaise with Eurostar and encourage them to re-open their telephone lines as soon as possible.”

Air France set to introduce Michelin-star menus

Air France has announced that it will be launching new Michelin-star menus created by French chefs Michel Roth and Anne-Sophie Pic for long-haul Première and Business passengers departing from Paris.

These menus will include seasonal produce, vegetarian options, French red and white meat and sustainably-caught fish.

Air France has also said that it is making it possible to pre-select meals before departure for Business passengers in a bid to reduce food waste.

It has also committed to eliminating 90% of single-use plastic on board its planes by 2023.

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