New Dordogne-UK flights, Eurostar competitor?: 7 French travel updates

We round up the latest travel news affecting France

We also look at delays from the Montparnasse terminal in Paris, and a train that left passengers stranded without warning near Lyon
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1. British Airways to begin Dordogne-UK flights over Christmas and New Year

British Airways will run flights during the winter holidays between Bergerac (Dordogne) and the UK for the first time since the airline began serving the airport in 2016.

There will be flights from Southampton and London City airports between December 16 and January 6, as BA looks to cater to British homeowners in the region.

Each route will see one flight per week and ticket sales began on Wednesday (August 2), for as low as £37 one-way from Southampton on the official BA website.

Each flight will have up to 98 seats available.

It is the first time British Airways has flown winter routes from Bergerac airport, which usually only sees summer flights.

Read more: Mid-sized French airports ‘too reliant on cheap flights’, report finds

2. Is Eurostar set for competition on London-Paris high-speed line?

A group of businesses – including the British Mobico (formerly National Express) Group – is looking into the possibility of running a new service to rival Eurostar on the high-speed rail route between London and Paris.

The service could start as early as 2025, according to the Financial Times newspaper (behind paywall), under the name Evolyn and use Alstrom trains built in France.

Since the inauguration of the Channel Tunnel in 1994, only Eurostar (owned in part by the French state rail operator SNCF) has provided passenger services on the line.

Getlink – the company that owns the Channel Tunnel itself – recently told AFP it “always had the ambition to have more high-speed train traffic,” using the tunnel.

It added this could either be through an increased number of Eurostar trains, or via the introduction of a competitor to the network.

The tunnel can run at least double the number of routes currently scheduled between London and mainland Europe, it added.

In 2021, Spanish state-owned rail operator Renfe expressed its interest in running a route on the line.

The information will not come as good news to the Eurostar Group (owners of Eurostar) which said earlier this year it is struggling to return to pre-Covid passenger figures.

Read also: ‘Data kiosks’ to be put at French borders for EU entry checks

3. French train leaves passengers stranded on platform after abrupt departure

Around a dozen passengers were stranded at Tarare (Rhône) station on Tuesday (August 1) after their train left abruptly without them.

Due to a signal failure, the driver told passengers they would be forced to wait for around 20 minutes in the station before they could continue to Lyon.

A few passengers got out of the train to stretch their legs or smoke a cigarette, but after only a few minutes the train left the platform without a further announcement warning of its departure.

“We were all dumbfounded,” said one passenger who had remained on the train, and alerted the ticket inspector to the error.

“He simply replied that it wasn't his fault. Since he didn't appreciate being challenged, he got out of his cabin and started checking our tickets, very angrily,” she added.

One 15-year-old Italian teenager was left on the train alone, after his 19-year-old sister had got off the train during a break and was left there, leading to both being “totally panicked”.

Contacted by Actu Lyon, SNCF said it offered passengers “its sincere apologies… for the inconvenience caused.”

It added, however, that no passengers at Tarare who were stranded went to the manned ticket counter for assistance after the incident.

Read more: French train delays last year ‘among the worst seen in a decade’

4. Busiest day of the year on French roads

Saturday (August 5) is set to be a ‘black day’ for traffic in France, with official traffic watchdog Bison Futé expecting it to be the busiest of the year.

The entire weekend is set to be extremely busy, as a ‘crossover’ between those going to – and those returning from – summer holidays takes place, although Saturday is set to see the peak of the traffic.

It is only one of two days this year to be given a ‘black’ traffic warning – the highest level – after Sunday, May 21, the Sunday after the Ascension public holiday, which saw schools shut early with the holiday falling on a Thursday.

Roads leading out of major population areas are set to be the busiest, but roads around all of France’s major cities and tourist destinations are set to be affected.

Traffic is expected to return to normal levels on Tuesday, August 8.

If heading out on the road this weekend, read our tips for a successful road trip, even when traffic is abundant on the roads.

Read more: Highest-level warning for traffic on French roads this weekend

5. Long delays at Paris airport after baggage system breaks down

Those travelling from Terminal 4 of Paris Orly airport faced significant delays on Thursday (August 3) after the baggage transport system broke down.

Despite the problem being identified early on Thursday morning, by the afternoon a source at France’s second-busiest airport said the main issue “had still not been identified.”

The airport’s managing group, Groupe ADP, called the issue “an unprecedented failure”.

Most flights saw delays of at least an hour, with some flights even departing without luggage being stored on the flights due to the delays.

“It creates a lot of chaos because there are a lot of travellers who end up at the airport, there are a lot of people, a little congestion but no disturbance to public order,” said the unnamed source.

At least 10,000 passengers flying from Terminal 4 were affected by the delays, and luggage was either being manually handled or rerouted to other terminals at the airport.

Some luggage was even sent to Charles de Gaulle airport, on the other side of Paris, to accompany flights to destinations where passengers were waiting for their luggage.

Read more: France travel: What are your rights for late, lost or damaged luggage?

6. Eight airlines now contest Paris-New York route

JetBlue is the latest company to begin offering New York-Paris flights, bringing the total number of airlines competing on the route to eight.

The airline started a service between Paris Charles de Gaulle and New York-JFK in late June.

Flights carried two million people between the two cities last year. There are three million seats offered in 2023.

Among JetBlue’s competitors are Norse Atlantic Airways, Air France, Delta, American Airlines, La Compagnie, French Bee and United Airlines.

More airlines operate on the Paris-New York route (eight) than New York - London (six).

In May, there were more than 900 flights between the French capital and the US’ largest city. That is 131 more than the same month in 2019, the pre-Covid benchmark.

Flights on the route are expected to generate €2 billion this year.

This increased competition has provided an economic boost for the region – Norse Atlantic Airways recently announced the creation of 100 jobs on French-style contracts due to its New York-Paris route.

On top of this, the competitiveness of the route provides attractive pricing options (including budget and luxury seats) and good service.

One airline professional told the French economics media Capital that “given the choice that passengers have, this route has to be a showcase for impeccable service.”

“In fact, it is often here that airlines inaugurate their new cabins [aircraft],” he added.

Read more: US-Paris flights, €9 'TGV' fares, ferry drill: 8 French travel updates

7. Montparnasse passengers could receive extra compensation

After a number of services from Paris’ Montparnasse train station were disrupted last week, France’s state-owned railway operator SNCF offered customers the obligatory refunds.

SNCF said that trains last Friday (July 28) evening and on Saturday morning were severely disrupted, likely due to lightning strikes, which “led to signal failures south of Massy”, where rail lines leaving the station pass through.

However, passengers could be in line to receive even further compensation, as SNCF is set to assess the situation on a one-off basis.

SNCF’s decision to look into awarding extra compensation may have been influenced by the incident occurring in the peak summer holiday season when many were looking to travel out of Paris for their summer break.

Friday evening trips are some of the most sought-after tickets, allowing people to begin their holidays by travelling to their destination in the evening without taking a day off.

Passengers delayed by more than thirty minutes are entitled to receive compensation, with the amount received rising as the length of time delayed increases.

On TGV trains, those delayed by between 30 minutes and two hours can claim a 25% refund on their travel, and those who were delayed by more than three hours can claim up to 75% back on their ticket purchase.

Delayed passengers have up to 90 days to collect their refund, which is in the form of a voucher to use on another train ticket.

It works slightly differently for Ouigo trains, where only up to 50% of the ticket price is refunded.

However, SNCF has not yet stated how the additional compensation will be received for those who faced delays at Montparnasse.

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