Planes, trains, metro, Covid rules: eight travel updates for France

The big news this week is that from today (January 14) France is easing restrictions on British travellers, meaning vaccinated people no longer need an essential reason to travel between France and Britain.

However, British arrivals in France no longer need to self-isolate, but will still have to undergo a PCR or antigen test in the 24 hours before their journey begins.

Read more: Ease UK-France travel restrictions

Read more: Flights, trains, holiday companies gear up for more travel between UK and France

We take a look at the other travel related stories that happened in France over the past week.

1. Rise in the number of Brits looking for French holidays

Following news that France is easing its travel restrictions on the UK, a poll found that when asked 12% of British respondents about their holiday decisions, they said they are now planning a summer visit to the country.

Of the 2,000 polled, 54% also said the closure of the French borders to tourists had affected their ski holiday plans.

The poll was conducted by research platform Opinium and commissioned by insurance company Battleface.

However, EasyJet reported a 600% increase in UK bookings for French ski destinations after the rule easing was announced, and Jet2 said it had seen a ‘sharp’ rise in bookings.

Tui, meanwhile, stated that bookings for skiing holidays had already doubled on Wednesday when it was reported that restrictions would be relaxed “in the coming days”.

Jet2 also reported an increase in reservations, with CEO Steve Heapy saying there was a “sharp and immediate” spike in ski flight bookings.

2. France has the fourth most powerful passport in the world

French passports are the fourth most powerful in the world, according to the new Henley Passport Index publication based on data from the International Air Transport Association.

The Henley Passport Index claims to be the most accurate travel information database and updates the passport rankings every year.

This is because people with a French passport can visit 188 countries in the world without the need for a visa.

First on the list were Japan and Singapore, whose passports allow holders to travel to 192 countries without requiring a visa.

France shares fourth place with Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden. Countries such as Italy, Germany and Spain occupy second and third place.

The UK took sixth on the podium, along with Belgium, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the US, whose passports allow visa-free entry to 186 countries.

3. Difficult months for SNCF, but company is now better prepared for Covid disruption

The CEO of SNCF Voyageurs, Christophe Fanichet, has said that while the company is in a challenging situation with the Omicron variant, it is now better equipped to anticipate the effects of new Covid waves.

With every increase in Covid cases France has experienced, SNCF has seen a massive drop in passenger demand followed by a strong rebound as the situation improved.

This pattern has enabled the company to plan more effectively for the Omicron wave.

Mr Fanichet said today that: “Since the beginning of the year, passenger numbers have been 65% on Paris regional trains, 85% on TER trains and 70% on TGVs (50% among people traveling for work) compared to a ‘normal’ year.

“Since last week, we have seen a 30% drop in reservations. The trains are now on average 50% full, which is why we have reduced our transport offer.”

Read more: Train services across France due to Covid, Eurostar also affected

“February vacation reservations are down 20% (but we’re seeing few cancellations). We have seen the impact of Omicron since the beginning of the year,” he added.

But if they can, people in France are returning in great numbers to travel by train and we know how to adapt quickly to these changes. At Christmas we transported 5.5 million people, which is a normal amount.

“The French no longer wait to see what happens, they plan their future trips. We registered 750,000 reservations the day we opened ticket sales for the February intermission.

Read more: SNCF opens sale of train tickets for spring holidays in France

“I am confident in train travel in 2022, even if we have to be careful.”

However, Fanichet added that he is “concerned” about Eurostar, which has been hit hard by UK and France travel regulations. Currently, Eurostar trains carry only 500 passengers, compared to 25,000 during normal times.

The current easing of restrictions should help the situation, but remains uncertain.

4. European Commission enforces take-off and landing slot rules

The European Commission has rejected the idea of ​​reforming airport take-off and landing rules, which some airlines use to justify running low or completely empty flights.

Current EU rules require airlines to use at least 80% of their take-off and landing slots to keep them for the following year. Due to the pandemic, this requirement was reduced to 50% in January and that percentage has been maintained for this winter.

A message written by European Transport Commissioner Adina Valean, now made public by French Green MEP Karima Delli, states that: “The Commission is convinced that the rules […] are adapted to the purpose and allow the avoidance of pointless climate and environmental damage.”

“There is a real responsibility not to allow empty flights to the sky because they represent a real economic and environmental anomaly,” Ms Delli said.

This came after Lufthansa announced in December that 18,000 of its planes would fly with just a few passengers this winter to preserve take-off and landing slots.

Members of the industry have called for a full review of EU regulations on the matter, and French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari has said negotiations will begin in the coming weeks to reduce the share of the required start-up. and landing slots for winter 2022.

The share for this summer has already been set at 64%.

Air France said: “We have never operated empty flights to keep our slots”, and that the company “is for a re-evaluation of the rules”.

5. Transavia unveils new spring routes

Low-cost airline Transavia has announced a number of new French routes for the spring and summer season.

These include two weekly flights from Paris-Orly to Moscow, daily flights between Paris-Orly, Perpignan and Pau, two weekly flights from Lyon to Budapest and the same between Montpellier and Berlin.

Most of these routes will open at the end of March or April, although the connection to Budapest will be available from February 11.

6. Icelandair arrives in Nice

Icelandic airline Icelandair is launching three new routes, including one between Reykjavik and Nice.

This allows people coming from the Côte d’Azur to travel to Montreal and Vancouver, with a connection in the Icelandic capital.

Between July 6 and August 27, there are two flights a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

7. Two new metro stations inaugurated in Hauts-de-Seine

French Prime Minister Jean Castex was in Hauts-de-Seine yesterday (January 13) to inaugurate two new metro stations on Line 4.

The stations are called Barbara – after the singer – and Lucie Aubrac – after the resistance fighter from the Second World War – and are located in Montrouge and Bagneux.

“Women are in the spotlight this morning,” Castex said. “And what women! What women!”

Barbara and Lucie Aubrac were “extraordinary women who, each in their own way, profoundly influenced the history of our country”, uniting “the values ​​and the common struggle of our republic.

“I’m also pleased that these two stations are contributing to the feminization of a transportation network that until now, it must be said, had made more room for big men than for our big women.”

8. Man sentenced to prison after violent resistance to wearing a mask on a TGV

A 31-year-old man had to be removed from a TGV train after he refused to wear a face mask and reacted violently to requests to follow hygiene rules in force, Provence reports.

While traveling from Marseille to Lyon, the man told the conductor who had asked him to put on a mask: “Tell your family you won’t see them again.”

He was then stopped by the railway police in Avignon and forced to get off the train. He said he had Covid, then spat at the conductor, but instead punched a police officer.

“I am killing the railway police with Covid,” he said at the time.

The man in question already had 21 convictions on his criminal record and wore brass knuckles.

His lawyer asked for his psychological condition to be taken into account, but the person was fined and sentenced to a year in prison – with six months’ probation – and a ban on carrying weapons and being banned from living in the Vaucluse.

He may carry out his sentence at home, under supervision.

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