Travellers have been hit by cancelled flights, ferry sailings and Eurostar trains as a general strike has affected services across France on 7 March.

The industrial action is part of a dispute against the French government’s planned pension reforms that include raising the retirement age. Tuesday marked the sixth day of widespread walkouts since the new year with the action expected to cause further upheaval in the coming days.

“Several unions have called for rolling cross-sector strike action and demonstrations across France from Tuesday 7 March,” reads the Foreign Office advice.

“Industrial action may start the evening before the strike day and run for several days. Localised or sector-specific strikes could also occur outside these dates. Industrial action may lead to disruption to services.”

Eurostar is running a revised timetable on 7 and 8 March and has cancelled more than 20 trains to and from the UK to France and the Netherlands. Air travel has felt the impact of strikes among air traffic control with EasyJet, British Airways and Air France cancelling flights between the UK and France.

EasyJet has said that flights up until 7am on 10 March could be affected. Ryanair also said that cancellations and delays were possible on Tuesday and Wednesday,

When are the planned strike dates?

The walk out is planned for 7 March, although unions have called for a “rolling strike”. This means that services are likely to be affected into 8 March and could extend further on a local basis.

How are flights to France affected?

Air traffic controllers announced a national strike alert and refuellers are also on strike.

Airlines were asked by the Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile (DGAC), the French aviation authority, to reduce their flight programme by 20 per cent at Paris Charles de Gaulle and 30 per cent at Paris Orly, Beauvais, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Nantes, Nice and Toulouse.

The DGAC also warned of disruption and delays and asked for passengers who were able to “to delay their journey and contact their airline company for updates on the status of their flight”.

The following airlines cancelled flights between the UK and France:

  • British Airways (at least 18 cancellations)
  • EasyJet (at least 13)
  • Air France (four)

Passengers departing to or from Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Bristol were affected.

What rights do passengers have if their flight is disrupted?

The strikes are beyond the control of airlines and under EU and UK consumer rules this means that passengers are unlikely to be able to claim compensation.

However, passengers whose flights are cancelled are entitled to a refund or to be rebooked onto an alternative flight.

Airlines also have a duty of care to their passengers. If a flight is delayed by more than two hours, the carrier should provide assistance, including food, drink and accommodation (with transport to and from it, should it be needed), if the delay is until the following day.

Should a flight be delayed, but there are no airline staff available to provide vouchers or assistance, then passengers have the right to organise refreshments and accommodation for themselves and claim the cost back. The amount spent must be reasonable and passengers must keep all receipts.

How has Eurostar been affected?

Eurostar issued a revised timetable for 7 and 8 of March as the general strike had an impact on the availability of some of the operator’s crew.

Advice on the Eurostar website as of lunchtime on Tuesday adds: “We’ve now been informed of reduced opening hours on the high-speed line we use in Northern France on 7 March.

“This means we’ve had to cancel additional trains and we’ll be running a revised timetable on 7 and 8 March.”

It has provided a list of trains cancelled on both days, which include the following London–Paris departures:

06.01, 07.01, 15.31, 16.17, 17.31, 18.13, 19.01, 19.31

06.01, 07.01, 08.58, 12.31,16.17, 17.31, 19.01

The following Paris–London services were also axed:

07.13, 08.43, 16.13, 17.13, 18.13, 19.13, 20.13, 21.13

07.13, 11.13, 15.13, 18.13, 21.13

Some services from London to Lille, Brussels, Rotterdam and Amsterdam were cut as were a handful of trains from Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Brussels and Lillie to London. See the full list.

Eurostar advises passengers that if their train is not listed as cancelled, it is scheduled to run as normal.

It adds that if further timetable changes can’t be avoided on 8 March, it will update the page and contact affected customers directly. Further details will be provided if other dates are affected by the strike.

Some services were closed for sale until the full effects were known.

More on Travel

What can passengers do if their Eurostar train is cancelled?

Travellers whose Eurostar train is cancelled can:

  • Exchange their booking for free to travel at a different time or date in the same travel class OR 
  • Cancel their booking and claim a Eurostar e-voucher valid for 12 months OR 
  • Cancel their booking and claim a refund from where they originally bought the ticket; if the ticket was bought directly from Eurostar, the claim will be processed in 28 days 

How are ferry services affected?

National federations of port and dock workers called for strikes in France.

Ferry services are affected on both days of the strike, with sailings delayed by up to 65 minutes on 7 March.

P&O Ferries advised passengers to travel on another date while Brittany Ferries cancelled ferries connecting Portsmouth to Le Havre, Caen and Saint-Malo.

Around 900 passengers were hit by the cancellations of Brittany Ferries services on both vehicle and freight ferries.

Brittany Ferries said it contacted affected customers and offered them a refund. It added that it expected departures to restart on Tuesday evening.

What do the strikes mean for rail travel in France?

Rail traffic was disrupted on all lines operated by SNCF Voyageurs on 7 March as unions of the SNCF, France’s national state-owned rail company, took part in the strike.

The action has been called a “rolling” strike because each evening those taking part in the action will meet up to decide whether they will continue the walk outs locally.

Specific train lines were to be affected as follows:

  • TGVs: One in five trains to run, on average
  • Intercités: No services, except for one Paris–Brive return trip, two Paris–Clermont return trips and a replacement bus for Toulouse–Hendaye traffic
  • Night Intercités: no services Monday–Tuesday and Tuesday–Wednesday nights
  • TER: One in five trains to run on average with TER traffic set to be disrupted in all regions
  • RER A and B, and Lines H, K, U: One train out of three to run
  • RER C and D, and Lines J, L, N, R: One train out of five to run
  • RER E, Line P: One in 10 trains to run
  • Paris Metro line 4: 50 per cent of trains running
  • Paris Metro line: One in three trains during peak times; one in four during off-peak times
  • Other metro lines: running normally, only at peak times
  • Buses: 75 per cent of buses were expected to run, although some lines were set to be closed

Is there disruption on roads?

Yes, several major routes in France were blocked by striking workers on Tuesday.

La Fédération Nationale des Transports et de la Logistique Force Ouvrière-UNCP called on logistics and HGV drivers to take part in the trike action and to stop work from Sunday night at 10pm, with action continuing into 6 and 7 March.

Meanwhile, The Union fédérale route FGTE-CFDT called for strike action on 7 March and “snail operations” or “opérations escargot” were planned. The areas where these operations were set to take place included Hauts-de-France, the Paris region and outskirts of major towns.

By admin