France travel round-up: new US-Paris flights, strikes and ferry news

We also look at why one department is trialling stop-on-demand trains and the anniversary of P&O Ferries’ mass sackings

We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week
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Pension strikes: how will travel be affected this weekend?

Strike action continues to impact transport networks this weekend, although there is set to be a “marked improvement” in Paris, according to RATP.

Unions have called for two more days of strikes to protest France’s controversial pension reforms.

They want further demonstrations this Saturday (March 11) and another on Wednesday (March 15).

It comes after a week of industrial action, beginning on Tuesday (March 7) when more than a million people hit the streets to voice their opposition to raising the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64.

Read more: Key takeaways so far from Tuesday’s pension reform strikes in France

There has been widespread travel disruption, with fewer trains and planes and blockades at ports, petrol refineries and on some roads.

Hundreds of petrol stations across France have also begun experiencing fuel shortages.

Read more: French petrol stations see shortages as pension protests continue

Today (March 10), metro traffic should be operating as normal on most lines, says RATP, and “almost normal on the RER A. On the RER B, however, expect services to be “very disrupted” in both directions, including connections at Gare du Nord (passengers will need to change trains here).

RATP expects conditions to be much the same on Saturday, but traffic is normal on the city’s bus and tram network.

It is a bleaker outlook for the country’s train network, with SNCF warning that services will remain “severely disrupted” today on all lines operated by SNCF Voyageurs.

“Traffic forecasts for this weekend are expected to remain disrupted in a similar way to Friday, with possible local changes,” the SNCF website adds.

It recommends that passengers cancel or postpone their journeys over the weekend or – where they are unable to – check train updates from 17:00 on the day before travel on the usual SNCF information channels.

TGV and Intercity passengers affected by cancellations will be contacted by email or SMS to exchange their ticket free of charge for another train as far as possible or to cancel their ticket and apply for a refund. Passengers whose trains are running have the same option, but it must be done before the departure of the train.

On Eurostar, cancellations continue today, with two out of three services running. Check updates on the Eurostar website for further revisions to timetables over the weekend.

In terms of flights, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGAC) has asked airlines to limit their schedules, cancelling 20% of flights on Saturday (March 11) at Paris-Orly, Marseille, Nantes, Toulouse and Bordeaux airports, and 20% on Sunday at Paris-Orly, Marseille and Toulouse airports.

Transport Minister Clément Beaune said the aim of these requests was "to avoid last-minute cancellations", but advises passengers to expect disruptions nevertheless.

Read more: France’s pension strikes: How bad is the ongoing travel disruption?

JetBlue unveils start date for daily Paris-New York flights

Low-cost US airline JetBlue has confirmed that its new service between Paris Charles de Gaulle and New York-JFK will launch on June 29.

The route was announced towards the end of last year, but no start date was revealed at the time.

Tickets, which are now available to book, start at around €450 for a return trip, with flights leaving once a day in each direction.

Paris is JetBlue's first destination in continental Europe. The New York-based airline began serving London Heathrow and London Gatwick in 2021.

Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s president and chief operating officer, told Travel & Leisure: “I think oftentimes the notion of a low-cost carrier is viewed differently through a European lens… We're very much not that. It's a low fare and a great experience.”

Read more: Why Americans are choosing Air France flights over US airlines

JetBlue also plans to launch flights between Paris and Boston later this year.

New ferry will improve connectivity to the Channel Islands

Condor Ferries has secured a new boat for its UK, France and Channel islands fleet, accommodating both passengers and freight.

The company provides year-round sailings, linking Portsmouth and Poole, the Channel Islands and the French ports of Saint-Malo and Cherbourg.

Its latest ferry, a "roll-on, roll-off" vessel with capacity for 400 passengers, was purchased in New Zealand and will enter service this autumn.

John Napton, Condor CEO, told the BBC that it will be used to carry freight from Portsmouth, offering a "weather resilient" overnight service in both directions between the islands and the UK.

The boat will also boost inter-island ferry frequency and "develop freight services" from France, Mr Napton said.

The ferry acquisition comes at a good time as Jersey this week (March 7) announced a pilot scheme allowing day-trippers to once again enter with just a French ID card.

Read more: Jersey lets French day-trippers use ID cards in bid to boost visitors

Tourism on the Channel Island had declined significantly after Brexit amid new rules that required visitors to show their passports.

In February French authorities warned that they would stop funding a ferry service to Jersey if a deal could not be reached.

Warning over Navigo renewal phishing scam

Holders of Navigo passes for Paris’s public transport network have been advised to be on their guard against suspicious renewal emails.

Ile-de-France Mobilités (IDFM), which issues the passes, says a new phishing attempt has been circulating, with the subject line ‘Navigo - Subscription suspended’.

Read more: Paris Navigo public transport monthly pass to rise by 12% in 2023

The email claims that a payment problem must be resolved before the pass will work again, and prompts recipients to click on a link to sort out the problem.

IDFM has warned users not to click on the link, nor to enter any personal information, including bank details.

It reminds Navigo pass holders that if there is a genuine payment problem they will first receive an SMS, then an email, both directing the recipient to call 09 69 39 22 22, to visit its website or to go to a ticket office.

Emerald Airlines launches direct flights between Brest and Dublin

A summer service between Brest, Brittany and Dublin takes off from May 20, offering twice-weekly flights between the two cities.

Read more: Film and energy deals made as France-Ireland Brexit boom gathers pace

The service from Emerald Airlines, which operates the Aer Lingus Regional services, will be the firm’s first foray into France and will operate on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Claude Arphexad, director at Brest Airport, said: "Dublin was a highly anticipated destination; we are delighted to be able to offer it to Bretons this summer.”

Flights are now available to be booked through the Aer Lingus website.

Union schedules ‘week of action’ to mark the anniversary of P&O sackings

UK transport union RMT is encouraging its members to support a string of events this month to mark the anniversary of P&O Ferries’ sacking of almost 800 workers last March.

Almost a third of the company’s workforce was dismissed without notice and replaced with agency staff from outside of the EU who were paid less than the minimum wage.

Read more: P&O sacks 800 UK crew saying action was needed to remain ‘viable’

Among events planned to mark the occasion is a demonstration on Tuesday (March 14) outside Parliament, with further action on Friday (March 17) in Dover and Hull, and in London again on March 21.

“It would be greatly appreciated if all RMT members could attend this week of action to demonstrate support for the seafarers attacked by P&O Ferries and for the union’s fair ferries campaign to ensure that there are no more P&Os,” a statement on RMT’s website reads.

French MPs are currently pushing for a new law that would give workers on ferries between England and France a minimum wage.

Didier Le Gac and Aurore Bergé, from the Renaissance party, put forward the legislative proposal aimed at ending what they call “social dumping” on ferry routes crossing the English Channel.

Read more: French MPs push law to protect Channel ferry workers after P&O layoffs

In the UK, similar legislation, called the Seafarers Wages Bill, is being passed. It requires the UK minimum wage to be paid to all staff with ‘close ties’ to the UK while in UK waters and has new rules on ‘hire and fire’ practices.

Corrèze trials stop-on-demand train service

Rail passengers at certain stations in Corrèze now have to signal to the driver if they want to get on or off, rather than counting on the train to make a scheduled stop.

The objective for the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region is to reconcile the need for faster trains with keeping little-used stations open, where low passenger numbers mean regular services are not always economically viable.

Three stations have been chosen for the trial, which launched in December. Outcomes will be assessed in the autumn before the scheme is potentially rolled out at other stations too.

Read more: New resident tax to help fund high-speed rail link in southwest France

Passengers getting on in Jassonneix in Meymac, Montaignac-sur-Doustre and Pérols-sur-Vézère have to signal to the driver if they want to board the train, and likewise tell the driver when they want to get off at a particular station.

Alain Fonfrède, mayor of Pérols-sur-Vézère, told France Bleu that keeping the local station open was vital for his community.

"We have people who are quite old in the commune, who don't necessarily have any means of transport, so it allows them to get around.”

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