Price freeze on trains, many airlines banned: 7 French travel updates

We also look at the best airports in France, the best ferry company in the world and Eurostar delays

Clockwise from top left: A flat rate pass for TERs next summer, DFDS wins top ferry prize, Eurostar delays questioned and Toulouse-Blagnac is France’s best airport
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This week you may have seen our articles on the confusion over Ryanair boarding passes, the light aircraft that crashed in a Paris suburb and the history of France’s speed camera network.

Here are other updates about travel and transport:

Air travel updates

An updated list of airlines deemed unfit to fly in Europe has been released by the European Commission.

The list includes 130 airlines from 22 countries, including Russia, Armenia, Iran and Nepal. It was drawn up by a panel of experts, who meet twice a year, in Brussels in November.

The banned airlines include:

  • Aurora Airlines, which describes itself as “the most punctual airline at Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky International Airport [Russia] in 2019”
  • Buddha Air, which was involved in fatal accidents in 2011 and 2021
  • Fly Arna, the Armenian low cost airline
  • Iran Aseman Airlines, which was involved in a fatal accident in 2018

Airlines are typically included due to not adhering to the safety norms and procedures observed in the European Union. In some cases, this can be due to their limited access to maintenance personnel and facilities.

They can be taken off the list by announcing that they will observe EU security standards, submitting to inspection and obtaining approval.

A list of the world’s best airports has been released by passenger rights defender Airhelp.

Drawing on interviews with 15,800 passengers in 58 countries between January 1 and September 30, 2023, the list gives airports an average rating based on three factors, each marked out of ten: food and shops, passenger opinion and on-time performance.

The rankings show that:

  • Muscat International Airport, Oman, had the best average ratings.
  • Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport, Estonia, was the most appreciated by passengers
  • Dubai International Airport had the best food and shops

French airports scored poorly, with the top three being:

  • Toulouse-Blagnac Airport at 135th place
  • Lyon Saint-Exupery International Airport at 140th place
  • Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport at 150th place

In each case, punctuality was shown to be the weakest ranking for French airports.

Rail travel updates:

The prices of train tickets and railcards will not rise in 2024, says the Minister of Transport.

“Trains have to be affordable and accessible,” said Clément Beaune speaking to FranceInfo on Thursday (November 7).

“There was a price shield in place last year during the period of high inflation. I want another one to be in place next year, although it will be slightly different.”

Mr Beaune went on to announce four measures:

  • A price freeze on Ouigo trains - “these are the trains that are most affordable for people with limited means,” he said. “It equates to one in four TGVs.”
  • A price freeze on Intercities trains - “these trains that carry more than 12 million people each year are often neglected”
  • A price freeze on the Carte Avantage railcard - “this will concern up to five million people”
  • The introduction of an unlimited flat-rate rail pass next summer - “for around €49 people will have unlimited travel on TER and Intercities trains”

“These four measures concern the most accessible trains that people use everyday,” said Mr Beaune.

Read more: Flat rate rail pass could be introduced in France next summer

Visitors to Paris find its transport system to be surprisingly good, says a study.

Parisians, who have been faced by rising prices, bedbug infestations and sweeping city centre driving bans, may feel frustrated by the city’s transport network.

However, this feeling is not shared by tourists.

A study by the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) found that 84.6% of visitors to the city said they were “satisfied” by its transport network between 2014 and 2021.

The figure includes road users, but is only slightly lower (79.8%) for public transportation.

While the global number of visitors to Paris is still lower than in 2014, the proportion of foreign visitors returned to pre pandemic levels in 2022.

The CCI noted that even at peak times, Paris has one of the lowest average waiting times for road traffic in all European cities, at three minutes 50 seconds.

Despite the positive report, the Paris Olympics will bring far more visitors to the city than in previous years, which will inevitably put the network under more strain.

However, in its report the CCI said that this challenge “represents a unique opportunity to deploy new services and tools into the ecosystem of Paris transport.”

One such tool is Tradivia, an automatic interpreting program that Paris Metro (RATP) workers now have on their smartphones and tablets.

However, Actu Paris reports that RATP agents have “not shown great enthusiasm for it”.

Read more: Paris to hold vote on whether SUVs should pay more for parking

Ferry travel updates:

DFDS has won the ‘World's Leading Ferry Operator’ award at the World Travel Awards 2023.

It is the thirteenth consecutive year that the Danish company has won the award, which is voted for by passengers and travel industry peers.

The company operates 10 lines in Europe, including Calais to Dover, and Dunkirk to Calais and Rosslare, carrying 4.7million passengers each year.

Brittany Ferries and P&O were also nominated.

DFDS vice president Kasper Moos accepted the award on behalf of his company at the ceremony in Dubai on December 7.

Other winners included:

  • Cannes - World’s Leading Festival & Event Destination 2023
  • Air France - World’s Leading Airline to Europe 2023
  • Martell (Charente) - World’s Leading Cognac Distillery Tour 2023
  • Qatar Airways - World’s Leading Airline 2023

Questions have been raised about the Channel Tunnel’s ability to manage delays

The lack of cohesion between Eurostar and the Channel tunnel operator Getlink is leaving customers confused when delays occur, claims BFMTV.

In one recent example, 700 passengers bound to London from Amsterdam were stuck on a Eurostar train for seven hours with no electricity, food or toilets on November 30.

The train had to stop at the exit of the tunnel in Folkestone due to the collapse of an overhead cable.

In reaction to the delay, Eurostar, which is a subsidiary of French rail operator SNCF, said:

"Following a complicated situation due to the position of the train and the track infrastructure, certain safety procedures had to be adhered to before we could move the train.”

But Getlink said: “Eurostar clearly did not transmit the relevant information to passengers”.

"It truly feels like an emergency situation but there’s no communication from staff," one passenger told BBC News.

In 2023, Getlink invested €45million to prepare the Channel Tunnel for more traffic in coming years, with plans to increase the number of trains going through it at any given time from six to eight.

There are also plans to open the competition with more operators on the route.

However, BFMTV suggests that increased traffic may exacerbate the problem.

Read more: Richard Branson ‘plans London-Paris train service to rival Eurostar’

Road travel updates:

A request to reduce the speed limit on French motorways to 110km/h has been rejected by the government

Extinction Rebellion, an international ecological movement against climate change, has been campaigning to reduce the speed limit from 130km/h to 110km/h.

The group has been illegally changing the speed limit on motorways signs by sticking posters over signs.

It says that by reducing the speed limit to 110km/h, motorists would use 16% less fuel and emit 25% less CO₂. Detractors point out that it would also increase travel time by 15%.

The Netherlands has already implemented a similar measure, limiting the speed on motorways to 100km/h between 19:00 and 06:00.

In response, the French government says that it does not currently envisage reducing the motorway speed limit.

Philipe Nozière, president of French drivers’ association 40 millions d’automobilistes called Extinction Rebellion’s actions “extremely serious” and “delinquent”, and questioned the merits of a speed limit reduction.

“The average speed on the motorway is 118km/h. This proposal would have no significant effect on CO₂ emissions,” he said. “It would just lead to more people being fined.”

Read more: No penalty for driver caught at 275 km/h on French motorway