UK Border Force strike, new air routes: Eight France travel updates

We also look at how a GPS system is adding a festive twist, a metro train part auction, a controversial ferry prize and more

We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week
Published Last updated

We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week.

UK minister urges people to rethink holidays due to Border Force strike

UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman has said that people expecting to travel to and from the six British airports set to be affected by a Border Force strike over Christmas will face “undeniable, serious disruption,” and should rethink their plans.

Read more: UK Border Force to strike for eight days over Christmas

Border Force staff represented by the PCS union – representing around 75% of passport control workers – are set to strike for eight days between December 23 and New Year’s Eve at Manchester, Cardiff, Birmingham, Gatwick, Heathrow (Terminals 2-5) and Glasgow airports, as well as the Port of Newhaven.

Border Force checks the passports of people arriving in the UK so the strike action will impact people coming from France and other countries. It is expected that hundreds of thousands of people will be affected.

Workers are striking over pay, job security, pensions, working conditions and redundancy terms.

Ms Braverman said in an interview yesterday (December 8) that: “If they go ahead with those strikes there will be undeniable, serious disruption caused to many thousands of people who have holiday plans. I really want to urge people who have got plans to travel abroad to think carefully about their plans because they may well be impacted.”

Some 600 soldiers are being trained to check passports in a bid to limit the disruption

It has been reported that up to 30% of flights could be cancelled over the strike period.

Although it will affect the Port of Newhaven, the strike should not affect any other ports or Eurotunnel services. However Eurostar trains are affected by a separate strike planned for December 16, 18, 22 and 23.

Read more: UK Eurostar security workers to strike in lead-up to Christmas

Read also: Pay rise agreement averts French EasyJet Christmas strike

The French train ticket which helps families to save money

Families in France hoping to travel by train this Christmas may be able to find a cheaper price if they buy a billet congés annuels.

Information on this type of ticket is not readily available on the SNCF website but it enables a family to buy discounted return tickets as long as they travel on the same service. The scheme is open to workers, jobseekers and retirees.

Savings can reach up to half the usual ticket price, and the discount can be claimed at any point throughout the year. However, once taken, it cannot be taken again until the next year.

The offer applies to return journeys of at least 200km in second class, but depends on the type of train chosen, the departure time and payment method.

For example, the reduction would normally be 25% on a standard TGV, reservable Intercités or TER train, but could be 50% for certain off-peak journey times and if you pay at least half with chèques vacances.

A chèque vacances is a voucher which can be used to pay for a portion of some of the different expenses associated with holidays, such as accommodation or travel. They are given out in booklets, normally by one’s employer.

To benefit, you need to fill in a form available at SNCF ticket counters but also online. If you fill it in online, you will need to take it into a station to sort out your tickets at least 24 hours before your journey.

You will be asked for proof of the details you enter into the form, such as documents reflecting your employment if you have put in the name of your employer, and evidence of your relation with the family members listed.

The government has said that it is hoping to “modernise” the billet congés annuels offer, which, it stated, is not currently as accessible as other ticket deals.

Saving money on train tickets has become even more pertinent in recent weeks, as SNCF announced that TGV tariffs would rise by 5% on average from January 10.

KLM to launch flights to Amsterdam from Rennes

Dutch airline KLM is to begin offering flights between Rennes and Amsterdam from March 26, 2023, with passengers being able to travel every day.

Amsterdam-Schiphol is one of the biggest airports in Europe, and so the Rennes-Amsterdam route makes it possible to connect to many other destinations around the world.

Passengers can already travel from Rennes to Amsterdam four times a week with Air France, but journeys will be easier once the offer is expanded.

EasyJet launches new routes around France

Low-cost airline EasyJet will be launching a new route between Tarbes-Lourdes Pyrénées and Milan Malpensa from March until the end of 2023.

The firm has also announced new routes between Paris-Beauvais, Nice and Milan Malpensa.

Nice will be served twice a week on Mondays and Fridays from April 7. EasyJet will be the only airline to offer this route.

Beauvais will be linked to Milan from March 27, also on Mondays and Fridays. Two additional flights, on Thursdays and Sundays, will be added at the beginning of September.

EasyJet is also the only airline to be offering this route.

Waze adds Father Christmas GPS voice for festive period

GPS app Waze says it is “putting on its Christmas outfit” for the festive period and has introduced a Father Christmas voice to its route direction options.

This feature was first launched in the US under the ‘Drive with Santa Claus’ scheme, and has now come to France for the month of December.

To activate it, go into your profile in the Waze app, then ‘Mon Waze’ (My Waze) and ‘Conduisez avec le Père Noël’ (Drive with Father Christmas).

You will then be able to choose the icon representing you on the map.

If you choose the Father Christmas feature, you will hear instructions such as ‘take the second exit. Next stop: the North Pole!’, and effects such as sleigh bells.

This is not the first time that Waze has marked a holiday with a special voice; at Halloween it offered a zombie theme.

Navigo passes will cost €84.10 per month in 2023

Ile-de-France has announced that the monthly cost of a Navigo public transport pass will rise by 12% to €84.10 in 2023.

The pass currently costs €75.20 per month.

Single ticket prices will rise to €2.30 from €1.90.

The government has offered Ile-de-France Mobilités €200million in funding in a bid to limit the price rise passed on to customers, but within a context of rapid inflation the operator said that it needed €450million in order to keep running all of its services properly in 2023.

Without the state funding, Navigo pass prices would have increased by 20% to €90.

Parts of Marseille metro up for auction

The trains used in the Marseille metro system are set to be replaced with new models from next year, and parts of the existing structures will be auctioned off by the city.

Interested members of the public will be able to bid for various objects from within the trains, including orange plastic seats and metro maps.

The funds raised by this auction will be donated to charity.

The old metro trains date from the 1970s, and the modernisation process will last from 2023 until 2027.

P&O Ferries wins award despite redundancy scandal

P&O Ferries has been named best company for Short Sea/Mini Cruise at the British Travel Awards, despite the controversy surrounding the firm after it sacked 800 of its UK crew with no notice in March.

This decision was criticised by RMT union boss Mick Lynch, who said that P&O Ferries “should not be operating as a business” and should be “handed jail sentences” for what it did.

“It is beyond belief that a company that unlawfully sacked 800 workers and has employed cheap agency labour to maximise profits is winning travel awards,” he said.

P&O tweeted: “We are absolutely delighted to have won Best Company for Short Sea/Mini Cruise at the British Travel Awards!

“Thank you to everyone who voted for us, we are very grateful.”

Companies nominate themselves for each of the British Travel Award categories, and the decision is then based on consumer votes.

A British Travel Awards spokesperson told STV News: “I can’t comment on an individual company’s policies.

“Normally P&O Ferries will win the best ferry operator and they lost out this year on that, so that is a reflection of how the consumers feel, but on the short sea mini cruises they did obviously win the award.”

In August, the UK Insolvency Service announced that P&O Ferries would not face criminal proceedings over its actions.

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