This spring and early summer, major strikes in France are affecting travelers as trains, flights and some public transportation services are delayed and even cancelled. Strike action in the air and rail sector have taken place in April and May, with extensive train strikes planned through June (see details by reading further down).
You may (rightly) be wondering whether the strikes– which have seen tens of thousands of workers take to the streets of Paris and other cities to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed labor reforms– will affect your own travel plans.
Keep reading for details on current traffic conditions in train stations, airports, and Parisian public transport services, and to learn how to cope with delays and cancellations. Since the striking action is expected to carry on through June for some services, I strongly advise that you stay informed to avoid unnecessary stress and disappointment.
Airlines, Trains and Transport Services Currently Affected
As of Sunday, June 18th, these are the airlines and transport services affected by striking action:
Eurostar confirmed several cancelled and delayed trains this spring as a result of striking action by France’s rail company SNCF. Further national rail strikes are planned in France every week in two-day blocks through June, meaning Eurostar and Thalys services are expected to be disrupted on certain dates during those months. However, the company said on its service information page that on Sunday, June 17th and Monday June 18th, all trains would be operating normally. Visit the Eurostar “disruption hub” to check whether your train might be cancelled, and for information on how to claim exchanges or refunds. For Thalys trains and train services to and from other European countries operated by SNCF, see their strike information page for help and updates.
Regional and inter-city trains, including TGV high-speed trains within France, saw major cancellations and delays in March, April and May on planned strike days. Further rail strikes are planned for part of every week through June, with the last one anticipated on June 28th (see further dates by scrolling down). This is likely to cause some considerable delays and disruptions, so be prepared. Scroll down for a list of planned strike dates in France between April and June.
After striking in March and April, workers at Air France took additional strike action on May 7th and 8th, 2018. Some cancellations and delays occured. In an official statement on their website, Air France said that “last-minute delays and cancellations can be expected” on and around strike days. If you’re traveling with the airline this spring, make sure to contact the airline and check the status of your flight at your departing airport ahead of time. Please note that Air France flights operated by partner airlines (KLM, Delta, and HOP!) are not affected by the strikes at this time. For more info on this month’s strikes and beyond, see this page at Air France.
- On and around known strike days, you should also check in with your airline even if it’s not Air France, as disruption and delays at Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports may cause issues for other flights as well. There was a one-day air traffic control strike in May that led to hundreds of grounded flights, including to and from the UK. Check with airlines and airports before you fly to ensure that your trip won’t be affecting by possible air traffic control striking action.
- The Paris metro, bus and tramway system is currently operating normally. Commuter trains operating under the RER system and managed by the SNCF rail company, however, have generally seen significant delays on strike days this spring. The RER is likely to be disrupted during further strikes by the SNCF through June (see dates below). This will affect you if you plan to take a commuter train to destinations outside Paris such as Disneyland Paris and the Chateau de Versailles. See this page for updated information on transport services within the Paris region.
Coping With the Strikes: Useful Sites & Tips
- If you’re flying to Paris Charles de Gaulle or Orly Airport, check the Paris Aeroports page for more information on your flight and the latest news on what airlines are concerned by strikes. If you’re flying to Lyon, Bordeaux or other French airports, contact your airline.
- The SNCF help page is especially useful if your TGV high-speed train or regional train in France has been canceled and you need information on exchanging or refunding tickets. You can find numbers and other contact details for English-speaking agents who can help you to arrange refunds and exchanges. This includes Eurostar tickets with departure points or destinations in France. This page in English also appears to be potentially helpful, promising to offer updates information on any rail service delays and cancellations by 5pm the day before.
- Taking note of upcoming strike dates can go a long way in helping you to plan ahead and mitigate any delays or cancellations. The SNCF rail company has announced the following strike dates in the coming month: 7-8 June, 12-13 June, 17-18 June, 22-23 June, and 27-28 June. Visit the information sites mentioned above to find out if your train will be affected, or avoid traveling by train on those days.
What Are The Strikes About This Time, Anyway?
Tens of thousands of public service workers in France– including rail, airline, taxi drivers, teachers and government employees– are striking against President Macron’s proposed reforms to labor laws. He has notably pledged to cut some 120,000 public sector jobs and make other cost cutting measures. He contends that this is necessary to balance France’s deficit and stimulate the economy; unions and other critics argue that these measures would increase precarious working conditions, moving he country toward a greater reliance on short-term contracts and private-sector control. There is also fear among rail workers that the planned reforms will lead to privatization of the rail sector, and thus erode a treasured public institution.
As for Air France workers, they’re asking for 6% salary raises, citing inflation and increasingly demanding working conditions.
Should You Cancel Your Trip?
I don’t advise it. You may want to avoid Air France if you can manage it, assuming you haven’t already booked tickets. Do be aware that things may run more slowly than usual and you may run into some frustration. From my perspective, though, canceling your trip entirely isn’t warranted. Flights and Eurostar trains are running all but normally at this time, as is the Paris metro. If you’ve planned to travel around France by train in April, May and/or June 2018, you may experience more significant delays and frustrations. Consider renting a car or making alternative arrangements if you want to avoid these.
Heading to France? Be Prepared
Avoid headaches and stress associated with last-minute travel by planning well ahead of time. It’s important, for one thing, to make sure you’ve bought some decent travel insurance before your trip.
Excellent coverage is available for very reasonable rates these days– and while France’s health care charges are relatively inexpensive, even for the uninsured, you don’t want to end up with hundreds or thousands of Euros in hospital bills in case of an accident. You can also get compensation in many cases for delays or cancellations caused by strike action. You can compare and purchase trusted travel insurance policies here (via World Nomads).
Also make sure to compare deals and packages on flights, hotels and trains well ahead of time. Search for flights and hotels here (via Skyscanner) and book rail tickets and passes here (via Rail Europe).
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