France travel updates including new UK flight route

Our travel round-up also looks at the Iberia strike, Ryanair’s dispute with travel agents and Eurostar’s hard winter

Clockwise from top left: Strasbourg station maintenance, Iberia on strike, Eurostar’s hard winter, Ryanair fights travel agents.
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Rail travel updates

Eurostar’s disastrous holiday season could give future rivals reason to rethink their plans.

The company was affected by Getlink strikes and a Thames tunnel flood in December, leaving thousands of its passengers stranded.

Eurostar will have to pay out millions of euros to the 30,000 passengers affected by the cancellations, although it will likely seek compensation from the Thames tunnel operator National Rail.

“The two events have nothing in common, except for their victim: Eurostar,” the director of transportation consultancy SIA Partners, Arnaud Aymé, told Le Figaro.

“In both cases, Eurostar has just been a witness to these events out of its control,” he said.

Several operators have considered operating in the tunnel in coming years, including Virgin, Evolyn and Renfe.

However, its reliance on other companies, international partners and different rail networks means that Eurostar faces unique challenges.

“The competition is not ready to operate on the network,” Mr Aymé said

“The high speed trains that go under the Channel are much more expensive to operate since they have to function on three different systems, each with their own standards and electrical currents.”

Strasbourg station could temporarily close due to ongoing renovations

The renovations at the station are scheduled to last until February 24, with the majority of work taking place at night, between 21:30 and 5:30.

The €4.85m project, which includes the replacement of 1,600m of track, is also highly likely to impact services during the daytime.

The SNCF says it will provide replacement buses for impacted routes.

No new domestic night trains routes to open in 2024.

Themuch-vaunted return of night trains has faced problems, and no new domestic night trains are scheduled to start in France this year.

Passengers on the Paris-Aurillac route are frequently moved onto buses for a non-electrified stretch of track that requires a combustion engine, which raises the question of why the SNCF reopened a line it had closed in 2002 citing high costs and lack of demand.

However, two international night trains should open in 2024:

  • Paris-Warsaw (by Polish operator PKP)
  • Zurich – Barcelona via Lyon and Montpellier (by Austrian operator OBB)

At present, the existing night train lines in France run from Paris to:

  • Briançon (via Gap)
  • Nice (via Marseille, Toulon, Cannes, Antibes…)
  • Lourdes (via Tarbes, extended to Henday in July and August)
  • Portbou (via Toulouse, Perpignan, Argelès-sur-Mer…)
  • Albi (via Rodez)
  • Latour-de-Carol (via Toulouse, Foix…)
  • Aurillac
  • Vienna
  • Berlin

Ferry travel updates:

No ferries from Caen to the UK next week.

Brittany Ferries route from Caen-Ouistreham (Normandy) to Portsmouth will be unavailable between January 8 and 13 due to maintenance.

Similarly, ferries in the Portsmouth to Caen-Ouistreham direction will not run between January 7 and 12.

Brittany Ferries says that it will use this window to perform maintenance on its ferries as well as on the port ramps.

Ferries will still operate from Cherbourg.

Air travel updates:

Ryanair withdraws its tickets from certain travel agents

The low-cost airline, which has enjoyed its most successful year ever, no longer permits, Kiwi and Kayak to sell its tickets due to an ongoing legal battle.

In a statement, Ryanair called them “pirates”, due to their “hidden mark-ups” on Ryanair prices.

“We will continue to make fares available to honest/transparent online travel agents such as Google Flights.”

Ryanair is in a strong position at present, reporting half-year 2023 profits of €2.18bn.

British Airways to fly from London Stansted to Nice.

The company is expanding its Stansted base in 2024, with flights starting on May 18 to:

  • Nice
  • Florence
  • Ibiza

The British Airways flights will only operate on weekends, with BA Cityflyer offering flights on weekdays.

A strike by Spanish airline Iberia will affect flights from France

Workers at Iberia are going on strike between January 5 and 8, leading to the cancellation of 400 flights, affecting more than 45,000 passengers.

Among the flights cancelled are:

  • Paris Charles de Gaulle - Madrid (IB3398 and IB3425)
  • Paris Orly - Madrid (IB3405 and IB3441)
  • Marseille - Madrid (IB8751 and IB8752)

If you have a flight booked with Iberia this weekend, check here to see if it is affected.