France travel wrap: Ferries cancelled and new Paris-NYC flights

Plus: Paralympian battles EasyJet over guide dog ban and Ryanair boss renews French strike attack

We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week
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Ferries disrupted as France blasted by storms

A number of ferry services have been affected by the bad weather sweeping over northern France today (March 31).

Gusts of up to 130km/h were forecast as storms swept in overnight and Météo France increased the alert level for two departments, Manche and Pas-de-Calais, putting them on the second-highest orange level. This advises locals to limit their movements and exercise extreme caution outside.

Read more: High wind warnings increased over storms in northern France

Two DFDS ferry services between Newhaven and Dieppe were cancelled due to the adverse weather – the 06:30 sailing from Dieppe to Newhaven and the reverse journey from Newhaven at 11:00. There were delays on its Dover-Calais and Dover-Dunkirk routes this afternoon.

Several P&O ferries have also been delayed. The company said on Twitter: “We know the weather is poor today and this is affecting our sailings. Please know that we are doing all we can to get all customers on their way as quickly as possible.”

Brittany Ferries passengers are also experiencing delays and cancellations today on the Plymouth-Roscoff and Cherbourg-Poole routes. The company says it is contacting affected customers directly via SMS and email to give alternative options.

UK Foreign Office updates travel advice to France after strike violence

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has this week (March 29) updated its travel information for people visiting France in the wake of violent protests in Paris and elsewhere in the country.

France has seen a series of strikes in recent weeks over the French government’s controversial pension reforms, which raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64.

Last week (March 23) tensions hit new heights as Bordeaux’s city hall was set ablaze and hundreds of police officers were injured as violence intensified in several other cities.

Read more: French pension protests intensify as Bordeaux city hall set ablaze

Meanwhile, officers have been accused of using excessive force by both protesters and human rights bodies, further inflaming demonstrators.

As a result, the FCDO has issued a new travel advisory on its website.

“Since mid-March, there have been spontaneous protests in central Paris and elsewhere in France. Protests are likely to take place and could occur with little notice. Some protests have turned violent. The protests may lead to disruptions to road travel,” it warns.

“There is also ongoing strike action affecting multiple sectors including transport networks.

“You should monitor the media, check the latest advice with operators before travelling, avoid demonstrations and follow the advice of local authorities.”

French unions have called for an 11th day of strikes next Thursday (April 6). The transport network is again expected to be affected, with delays and cancellations likely.

Read more: French unions set new date for fresh pension reform strikes

Registration for Lille traffic ‘bonus’ starts on Monday

Drivers in Lille could soon be paid to leave their cars at home during rush hour.

The écobonus scheme promises motorists €2 per journey each time they avoid the A1 or A23 to or from Lille between 07:00 and 09:00, and 16:30 and 18:30.

The idea is to promote working from home, using public transport, carpooling or simply changing journey times in a bid to cut congestion at peak times.

Registration for the scheme opens on Monday (April 3) for anyone who uses these roads daily. You have until May 12 to apply on the changerç website.

In May and June, cameras installed on the A1 and A23 will check that vehicles enrolled on the website are indeed making the journeys regularly, before the scheme officially launches on September 4.

The écobonus will be offered for a nine-month trial period. The aim is to reduce traffic on these roads by 6% to 10% if 5,000 drivers sign up.

Strike action will see flights cancelled for another ‘three or four months’, airline boss predicts

Air passengers have been warned to expect continued disruption over the coming weeks as striking French air traffic controllers (ATC) bring flights across Europe to a standstill.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary claims a million passengers have so far been affected by industrial action in France this year, with 60 flights cancelled on Thursday (March 30) alone.

He told the Airlines for Europe conference in Brussels that the company only received the ‘Notam’ (aviation instruction) to cut flights from French ATC fewer than 48 hours before strikes took place.

British Airways also cancelled 50 short-haul flights on Thursday (March 30), citing the ongoing pension reform strikes for the disruption, as well as bad weather.

Ryanair has already launched a petition demanding the European Union moves to keep skies across the country open during industrial action.

Read more: Ryanair: Let other air traffic staff replace French during strikes

Mr O’Leary insists it is unfair that French law protects domestic flights during strikes, while other flights passing over French airspace are cancelled – a situation which shows no sign of improving.

He told the Telegraph: “The French are going to get worse and worse for the next three to four months. People are really f------ p----- off with flights getting cancelled left, right and centre because the French are on strike. They're not going to France, it’s the overflights that are taking all the cancellations.

He added: “The French use local minimum service laws to protect the French flights. And it’s the Germans, the Spanish and the Italians, the Irish and British – we have our flights cancelled. It’s bull----.

“It’s [Ursula] von der Leyen [president of the European Commission] who needs to be taking action on this. And if we don't push the agenda, we will just continue to limp along for the next couple of years with the French folk closing the skies over Europe on a regular basis. It's not acceptable.

“By all means, you have the right to strike. But if you want to strike, cancel the French flights. Let them take the delays.”

Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, also concedes his airline has been “very badly hit” by French strikes.

He told the Independent: “It’s impossible sometimes for people to comprehend when they go from point A to point B and there’s something happening at point C that makes the flight cancelled.

“The issue is not only the actual flight, but because it also has a ripple effect across the whole of the network that makes it even more impossible for someone to understand why there is a delay.

“It’s difficult to see when it’s going to end.”

Ryanair’s petition has, at the time of writing, got nearly 100,000 signatures. It promises to submit it to the EU Commission at 1 million signatures and demand that they take action.

EasyJet in dispute with Paralympian over guide dog ban

Low-cost carrier EasyJet has been slammed by a French disabled sports star for refusing to let him travel with his guide dog.

Timothée Adolphe, who won a 100m silver medal at the last Paralympics and is blind, was due to travel from Paris to Toulouse with the airline.

Although tickets had been booked in advance for both him and his guide dog, Japelou, EasyJet said the animal would not be able to accompany him on the flight.

This is despite French law obliging airlines to allow disabled passengers and those with reduced mobility to travel with a recognised assistance animal

"I was stunned". Mr Adolphe, told Le Figaro this week (March 28).

"The company told us that they no longer accept guide dogs. We were very surprised. My sponsor contacted them for explanations and they were told that EasyJet was an English company and as such did not have to respect French laws.

"It's 2023, and to have to fight to enforce basic laws is not normal," he said.

Read more: Guide dog owners continue to fight Brexit pet travel rules EU-UK

He added that he was also told the dog did not come from an accredited guide dog school – a claim he vehemently disputes.

EasyJet has launched an internal investigation into the matter, insisting to the newspaper that it does accept guide dogs “as clearly stated on our website”.

It added: "EasyJet carries hundreds of guide dogs every year.”

Mr Adolphe and his dog eventually travelled to Toulouse with Air France.

Paris-New York flights get more competitive with new Norse offering

Passengers travelling between Paris and New York now have more flight options thanks to a new daily service from a low-cost Norwegian carrier.

Norse Atlantic Airways celebrated its inaugural flight between the two cities on March 26, making it the seventh carrier connecting the two alongside Air France, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines, La Compagnie and French Bee.

US airline JetBlue also plans to launch a New York-Paris route on June 29.

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

Norse CEO Bjorn Tore Larsen, who only launched the company nine months ago, said: "We are delighted to offer cost-effective travel and increased choices for our passengers between the vibrant cities of Paris and New York, which will further boost transatlantic travel benefiting local tourism on both sides of the Atlantic.

“With the addition of our latest route to Paris, our airline now offers a total of five European destinations from New York this summer, including Rome, Berlin, Oslo, and London."

P&O flagship arrives in Europe

P&O Pioneer, the world’s largest double-ended hybrid ferry, is due to arrive in Dover in the coming days.

The boat, which will enter service for P&O Ferries on the Dover-Calais route on May 1, arrived in the Cypriot port of Limassol last week (March 22), before heading on to Gibraltar and then England.

P&O Ferries estimates that in service the new boat will use 40% less fuel than its existing cross-Channel ferries through a combination of fuel and battery propulsion, plus the fact its double-ended design means it does not need to around in port so can sail more slowly while still sticking to schedule.

In related news, French MPs have this week (March 28) voted in favour of a law that aims to stop cross-Channel ferry companies from employing low-cost labour.

It is a direct response to P&O Ferries firing 800 staff last year and replacing them with cheaper agency staff.

Read more: French MPs vote to give cross-Channel ferry workers a minimum wage

In the UK, however, there has been outrage that, despite the scandal, the owner of P&O Ferries, DP World, was on Monday (March 27) approved by the government to co-run the Thames Freeport in Essex, a major new infrastructure project.

The Trades Union Congress said the decision was "appalling", enabling other employers "to act with impunity".

Staff awarded extra ‘holiday’ if they don’t fly

A French company is encouraging its employees to reduce their carbon footprint by offering extra holiday if they travel to their destinations by train, bus or by carpooling.

Ubiq, which lists offices and coworking spaces, launched the scheme in January for its 30 staff members. It hopes the holiday incentive will avoid about 50 plane journeys a year.

“We are well aware that we are not going to change the world. If others start doing the same, the impact will inevitably be greater," Ubiq's managing director, Mehdi Dziri, told Le Figaro.

Read more: Car-sharers in France can get €100 bonus even if not new app users

The scheme, called Temps de Trajet Responsable (TTR), is distinct from a worker’s standard holiday allocation. Each employee is entitled to one day of TTR every six months, dedicated solely to the time spent travelling to a destination. For more flexibility, they can split their TTR days into half-days.

"In concrete terms, the employee who has chosen a more responsible route is given a semi-off day for his or her journey. He or she is invited to work only if and when possible.

“A limited connection will allow them to answer a few emails, read a study or reflect on a topic. And then enjoy a weekend with limited carbon impact," said Margaux Beaunez, the firm’s communications director.

A similar scheme already exists in the UK, called Climate Perks.

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