France travel round-up: Pet price hike, flights ban, Eurostar drama

Plus Paris-Australia direct flight push, new ferry on Cherbourg route and is Saint Etienne airport set for a comeback?

We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week
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Air France hikes prices for transporting pets

Air France has increased prices for transporting pets on some international routes, with medium- and long-haul flights seeing the largest increases.

Prices have been increased in a bid to combat the increased cost of handling services on the ground, said an Air France spokesperson.

The cost of transporting a pet is now €400 for a long-haul flight and €200 for a medium-haul trip.

Some long-haul destinations that are overseas departments or territories of France (like Réunion, Guadeloupe, etc) will cost €200.

For most European flights, the cost of animal transportation is €200, but this varies depending on whether the animal travels in the hold or the cabin.

A full breakdown of the new tariffs can be found here.

“[Air France is] one of the only airlines offering international transport of animals, in the cabin and in the hold,” said the spokesperson, adding that animals travel "in lighted, ventilated and tempered compartments throughout the flight.”

Read also: Is there a ‘lost and found’ pet register in France?

New online portal to book family travel card

Those who can benefit from la carte familles nombreuses, or large family card, can now renew or buy the card online using a new portal.

The card is for families with at least three children - one of whom is under the age of 18 - or a family with five adult children.

It can offer discounts of up to 75% for the largest families, and unlike some other cards, it is not means-tested, meaning all are eligible to apply.

The cost of application for a card is €18 and the card is valid for three years for those with three children – but can last up to five years for those with five or more children in the group.

The card gives discounted travel in both 1st and 2nd class carriages on SNCF trains, as well as a reduction to public transport travel costs in the Île-de-France capital region of up to 50%.

Aside from travel cost reductions, the card comes with a number of other discounts including for sports and leisure activities, hotels, and restaurants, among others.

You can find out all the information and apply for the card here – once your application is accepted, you will immediately have access to a digital version of the card before a physical copy arrives.

Read also: Why it is a good idea to carry ID when travelling on French trains

New ferry on Dublin to Cherbourg route

A ferry that is claimed to be the “largest and fastest on the Irish Sea” will be introduced on the Dublin-Cherbourg route.

The vessel, which will be called the Oscar Wilde, can carry more than 2,000 passengers and 450 cars.

It will also include dedicated facilities for heavy goods vehicle drivers, areas for children (including a playground), and pet facilities.

The ship - which has been sailing between Estonia and Finland for the last 16 years - will alternate with the W.B. Yeats on the Dublin-Cherbourg route and also operate between Rosslare and Pembroke.

The introduction of the boat is part of Irish Ferries’ response to increased competition on routes between Ireland and France.

Since Brexit, the number of weekly ferry services between the two countries has increased from 12 to 40, and in 2022 a quarter of a million passengers used ferry services between Ireland (from Dublin and Rosslare) and Cherbourg.

Read also: Cruise ship drama as gusts of up to 135km/h cause ferry cancellations

Man causes Eurostar delays by bringing wartime bombshell onto train

A passenger caused havoc in Lille when he attempted to bring a wartime bombshell onto a Eurostar train heading for London.

The unnamed individual, described as an “amateur military history enthusiast”, had stashed the shell in his luggage before attempting to board the train.

It was soon spotted by customs officials, however, who promptly called in the police and bomb disposal experts.

The explosive material had already been removed from the object, but the panic still caused severe delays on both the Eurostar and national and local French rail services on Sunday (April 9), with the train eventually departing three hours late to London.

Read more: Train tickets for the French summer season now on sale

Qantas and Air France in talks over Paris-Perth direct flight

Australia and France’s largest airlines have held talks over the introduction of a non-stop flight between Perth and Paris-Charles de Gaulle.

It would follow other non-stop services between Australia’s fourth biggest city and Europe, including to London Heathrow and Rome Fiumicino.

The Perth-Paris direct flight would take 16 hours – one of the longest in the world – and would use a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Plans are on hold, however, due to congestion and capacity concerns at Perth airport.

“Unfortunately, we’re probably paused in terms of expansion until we can reach an agreement with (Perth) airport,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, with any agreed route not expected to launch until late 2023 or even 2024.

Qantas ran an Australia-Paris service via Singapore, but it was stopped in 2013.

Read also: Hundreds stage protest against Nice airport expansion

EU gives France green light to ban short-haul domestic flights

The European Commission has backed France’s proposed law to ban domestic flights in the country, where rail alternatives exist.

The plans were originally announced as part of the 2021 climate law, which seeks to limit CO2 emissions in the country.

With the EU’s approval, the legislation can now come into force.

The rule changes mean any domestic flights between two cities where a rail journey can be made in two-and-a-half hours or less will be banned.

At first, however, this will only affect three services between Paris Orly airport and Lyon, Nantes and Bordeaux.

Services to these cities from Paris Charles de Gaulle will still stay open, however, as the overall journey time would take more than 2.5 hours.

“[This] is a major step forward in the policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Minister for Transport Clément Beaune.

“I am proud that France is a pioneer in this area,” he added.

Some believe however the policy does not go far enough, and want the ban extended, to see flights banned where train journeys of up to four hours could replace them.

Although the EU has approved the law, it is unknown when it will come into effect, as it still has to be looked over by a Public Consultation and reviewed by the Council of State.

Read also: Climate change: ‘We need greener fuels, not jet bans, in France’

Tax aviation and roads to fund French rail upgrades, says SNCF boss

The CEO of France’s state-owned rail operator SNCF has suggested rail improvements should in part be funded by taxes on air and road transport.

The French government announced a €100 billion upgrade to France’s rail system between now and 2040.

But there are question marks over where all of the money will come from.

Taxes from transport “with the most negative impact on the environment” could in part “be used to fund the railways,” said SNCF CEO Jean-Pierre Farandou.

Plans to relaunch commercial flights at Saint-Étienne airport

Plans have been put forward to re-open the Saint-Étienne–Bouthéon airport for commercial flights.

Since 2017, the airport has seen only private charter flights, usually for football teams and occasionally business, but not commercial services.

The airport racked up debts of more than €1 million, despite attracting 150,000 passengers per year.

In a bid to relaunch the airport, the city is planning domestic flights to cities that are hard to reach by rail (such as Toulouse, Nantes, Brest, and Le Havre).

On top of this, charter flights to popular holiday destinations are set to be offered again.

Aside from commercial flights, there are proposals to set up a customs clearance hanger for import-export companies, as well as a flight school and wind tunnel.

A start-up researching 100% electric aircraft has also decided to use the airport as its hub.

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