This spring, major strikes in France are affecting travelers as trains, flights and some public transportation services are delayed and even cancelled. What’s more, further strike action in the air and rail sector is planned for April, 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 into April 2018 and until 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, April 15th, these are the airlines and transport services affected by striking action:
- After striking in late March and in early April, workers at Air France have announced additional strike action on April 17th, 18th, 23rd and 24th, 2018. Significant delays and cancellations are anticipated. On Saturday April 7th, Air France cancelled around 30% of its flights, while others saw delays. On Wednesday April 11th, only 60% of the carrier’s long-haul flights were operating normally, and 65% of medium-haul flights to and from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport did. They’ve warned that “last-minute delays and cancellations can be expected” on and around strike days If you’re traveling with Air France 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.
Eurostar has confirmed several cancelled and delayed trains in early April as a result of striking action by France’s rail company SNCF, including April 8th, 9th, 13th and 14th. 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. 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 late March and early April on planned strike days. Around 40% of TGV trains were operating on Friday March 23rd, and only 25% of regional trains operated according to schedule in the greater Paris/ Ile de France region. On strike days in early April, similar disruptions and cancellations occurred. Further rail strikes are planned starting early April through June, including April 13th and 14th. This is likely to cause some significant delays and disruptions, so be prepared. Scroll down for a list of planned strike dates in France between April and June.
- 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, experienced significant delays on strike days in late March and April. The RER is likely to be disrupted during further strikes by the SNCF in April 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 delays or cancellations. The SNCF rail company has announced the following strike dates in the coming months: 3-4 April, 8-9 April, 13-14 April, 23-24 April, 28-29 April, 3-4 May, 13-14 May, 18-19 May, 23-24 May, 28-29 May, 2-3 June, 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.
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 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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