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French strikes: What can I do to avoid plane or train travel misery?

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French strikes: What can I do to avoid plane or train travel misery?
Photo: AFP
12:00 CEST+02:00
French rail workers have begun their rolling strikes from April to June while Air France staff will also walk out on certain days in May. If you're one of the unlucky travellers whose plane or train is cancelled, here's what you can do.
Air France
 
What are the dates of the strikes? 
 
Air France staff are set for more strikes on May 3rd, 4th, 7th and 8th.
 
How to find out if your flight is canceled
 
Air France will let you know if your flight has been cancelled the day before you're due to fly by SMS or email. That's when the airline will be able to accurately estimate the impact of the strike on its schedule.
 
You will also be able to consult the flight schedule online. Some will be cancelled while others will fly with a reduced crew and Air France has warned that it may not be able to "honor all reservations" even for a flight which is still running. 
 
READ ALSO:

UPDATED calendar: When to avoid train and plane travel in France this spring

How to postpone your trip 
 
Passengers will have the choice of re-scheduling their flight or getting credit valid for one year on Air France flights as well as its subsidiary airlines Joon, KLM or Hop!.
 
 
 
Air France also offers customers a voucher valid for a year if they want to postpone their trip to a later date. Passengers can also change their departure and destination airports or just cancel their tickets.
 
To do this visit: www.airfrance.com and go to the "Review / modify your reservation" section or on the Air France App, or call 0 800 240 260 (available from France or overseas departments) or +33 1 57 02 10 58 (from abroad).
 
How to get a refund 
 
If you bought your ticket directly from Air France, you can request a refund via the "My Reservations" section on the company's website although be warned that the steps can seem unnecessarily complicated and discouraging. 
 
French consumers group UFC Que Choisir has set up Indemnit'Air to help air passengers in difficulty.
 
And if you bought your ticket via a travel agency, it's up to you to contact them directly.
 
What if you already have your boarding pass in hand? 
 
If your flight is cancelled at the last minute or if you find that you can't get on the plane at the last moment, you can get a refund for all or part of your ticket. 
 
Go to the airline's counter at the airport or contact Air France by phone at 3654. 
 
You are also eligible to €250 compensation for short-haul flights, €400 for medium-haul and €600 for long-haul flights, says Air France. 
 
Air France staff announce two more days of April strikes
Photo: AFP
 
Trains
 
What are the dates of the strike?
 
Rail unions will hold a series of two-day rolling strikes throughout the spring which will be carried out on two days out of every five until June 28 unless the government drops its plan, which includes stripping new recruits of jobs-for-life and other benefits.
 
The number of strike days will total 36. 
 
How to find out if your train is canceled
 
You can find details about how the strikes are affecting the trains on the SNCF website, at stations or by calling 3635.
 
But unfortunately you will not be able to get accurate information about cancellations until 5 pm the day before your departure. 
 
Take note that some trips will no longer be available through online booking but this doesn't necessarily mean that they are cancelled. 
 
Can I take another train the same day?
 
In theory, passengers can take another train on the day of their ticket as long as they haven't cancelled and they're travelling to the same place...as long as they don't mind standing up, that is. 
 
Photo: AFP
 
What do I do if my train is late on a strike day?
 
There are three categories of compensation for TGV and Intercité trains. 
 
If your train's 30 to 59 minutes late, you can request a refund of 33 percent of the price of the trip.
 
From 60 to 119 minutes, you can claim a 33 percent refund of the trip cost in the form of a voucher for another train journey or a cash refund of 25 percent of the trip price.
 
For a delay of 120 minutes or more, you can claim 66 percent of the price of the trip in the form of a voucher or 50 percent of the price in cash.
 
For Ouigo customers delayed for between 60 and 119 minutes, a refund voucher of 25 percent of the ticket price will be sent by e-mail, and that will go up to 50 percent if the delay is 120 minutes or more.
 
How to postpone your trip 
 
SNCF is offering to exchange all tickets reserved for strike days free of charge and that includes ones that were originally non-refundable and non-exchangeable. 
 
For Ouigo train services, you can exchange your ticket without charge but beware, if there is a difference in price during the exchange, you'll be responsible for making up the additional cost. 
 
How to get a refund
 
For TGV, TER and Intercités trains, you can exchange your ticket or apply for a refund at no extra charge, including for non-exchangeable / non-refundable rates, according to SNCF. 
 
Ouigo ticket holders will automatically receive a voucher for the amount of the reservation within seven days of the date of the trip. 
 
Refund requests can be made using the online form, or in an SNCF shop or ticket machines. 
 
You can CLICK HERE to find out about cancellations for international trains including TGV, Eurostar and Thalys.
 
And what about people with a TGVmax subscription?
 
If you have a TGVmax pass, you won't be able to exchange your ticket. You'll only be able to get a replacement on the next train, without the guarantee of a seat.
 
However on Tuesday, SNCF announced to TGVmax and iDTGV subscribers, who pay a monthly subscription in instead of individual fares, that they would be refunded for the month of April.
 
TGVmax and iDTGV subscribers, who pay a fee of €79 and €65 a month respectively so that they don't have to buy tickets for individual journeys  angry because they can no longer reserve a train for strike days (like other travelers).
 
But there are very few TGVmax seats available on other days, which often requires them to pay the full-fare tickets on top of their subscription.
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