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France’s SNCF ends free last-minute refunds on train tickets

Since March 2020, travellers in France have been able to exchange or cancel train tickets up until the last minute without being charged. This policy has come to an end, French rail operator SNCF has announced.

France's SNCF ends free last-minute refunds on train tickets
Photo: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP.

The measure had been introduced at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, and applied to all TGV and Intercité trains.

Travellers could change or cancel their tickets right up to the set departure time with no fees, as SNCF tried to tempt passengers back after 18 months of several curtailed travel.

But from Monday, September 13th, the free cancellation policy will only apply up to three days before departure.

“There were unfortunately some clients who were overdoing it, they were holding onto seven or eight tickets, and only keeping one,” SNCF boss Jean-Pierre Farandou told news programme ‘Le Grand Jury’ on Sunday, “so there were several seats that remained empty at the last minute.”

Farandou added however that the policy had been effective during the pandemic: “I’m sure that it contributed to the fact that more people dared to buy a train ticket.”

It will still be possible to exchange or cancel tickets fewer than three days before departure, but for a fee of €15 for TGV Inoui trains, or 40 percent of the ticket price up to a maximum of €12 for Intercités. There are no refunds for Ouigo tickets, but these can be exchanged up to an hour and a half before departure.

Adults travelling on TGV and Intercité trains are currently required to show a health pass, and this will be extended to all over-12s from September 30th.

Farandou said SNCF would be aiming to check passes for “30, 40 percent of trains”.

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STRIKES

UPDATE: French air traffic controllers cancel strike action in September

The main union representing French air traffic controllers has cancelled calls for a strike from September 28th to 30th, after "reaching an agreement with their supervisory ministry."

UPDATE: French air traffic controllers cancel strike action in September

SNCTA, the main union for air traffic controllers said this week that they had lifted their calls for a three-day strike at the end of September after coming to an agreement with France Ministry of Transport. 

In a statement on its website, the SNCTA said “In view of the concrete progress made on the demands, the SNCTA is lifting its [strike] notice for September 28th, 29th and 30th. The strong mobilisation of September 16th was necessary and instrumental for reaching this conciliation in a very constrained calendar. Thank you to all of you!” 

The French ministry of transport has not yet commented on the above agreement or lifting of the strike.

The International Air Transport Association tweeted their support for the SNCTA’s decision to cancel further industrial action, calling Friday’s strike “unnecessary.”

The association also urged the European Union to implement a “Single European Sky.” This reform, which was put forward almost 20 years ago, has not yet reached fruition. It intends to shift the current system of air traffic organisation away from national borders and toward a “coherent zone” in order to reduce emissions and save both time and money.

The strike on September 16th left over 1,000 flights in France grounded, as well as widespread delays and over 2,400 flight cancellations across Europe. 

The SNCTA mobilised for wage increases due to the rising cost of living, in addition to an acceleration of recruitment in order to anticipate a wave of retirements. After Friday’s action, the union had called for further strikes from September 28th to 30th before reaching an agreement with their supervisory ministry. 

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