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Easter travel to France: What services are up and running

The Easter holiday is traditionally a busy time for travel between France and the UK - but this year several issues have combined to make travel tricky. Here's what is up and running if you have a trip booked.

Easter travel to France: What services are up and running
Several UK airports have been hit by delays and flight cancellations. Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

Flights

Companies including EasyJet and British Airways have been cancelling a high number of flights in recent days, because many of their staff have Covid.

More than 1,100 flights have been cancelled over the past week, including some 200 EasyJet flights to popular European location

If your flight is affected, you will be contacted directly by your airline.

Airports

If your flight is running as scheduled, be aware of issues at several UK airports.

Airports including Heathrow, Manchester and Birmingham have been hit by disruption because of staff shortages caused by Covid, affecting everything from airport security to luggage handlers. Passengers risked missing their flights because of lengthy delays, according to reports in the UK press. 

Passengers have been advised to make sure they are at the airport as early as possible to allow for delays, and unions have warned that the disruption could last for some time.

In the case of Manchester, the advice is to arrive three hours early.

Ferry services

P&O ferries may not resume cross-Channel services until “after Easter” – traditionally one of its busiest periods as holidaymakers look to make the most of the two-week school break – after its controversial decision to lay-off 800 members of staff in the UK, according to the RMT union. 

National secretary of the union, Darren Proctor, told KentOnline: “The information we have is that individuals have tried to book crossings between Dover and Calais and the earliest they are being offered is April 19th.”

P&O has not confirmed the union’s claims – but they will not be welcomed for thousands of holidaymakers looking to get to France and elsewhere over Easter. And it has been reported that one of its ships, the Pride of Kent, failed a safety inspection, and services on the short crossing are not expected to restart for several days, at the earliest.

This has, obviously, had a knock-on effect on other cross-Channel ferry services.

DFDS is putting on additional services, but has warned it will be operating at close to capacity over the busy four-day Easter period. P&0 has previously said that booked who had booked tickets should go to the port as planned, and head for the DFDS check-in.

However, DFDS has said that it cannot not take any more P&O passengers from April 8th to April 10th – a situation likely to expand into the bank holiday weekend for return journeys.

Eurotunnel

Eurotunnel is experiencing more traffic than it has since 2019, as cross-Channel passengers and freight have been switching to the undersea service since the start of the P&O crisis. On Monday, one of its freight trains broke down en route to Calais, and needed to be repaired in the tunnel before returning to Folkestone, leading to additional temporary delays. 

Normal service resumed later the same day, but – like ferry operator DFDS – Eurotunnel is operating close to capacity. Existing bookings will be honoured, but don’t assume that you will get a crossing if you book at the last minute.

Eurostar

Services are running as normal and there are no reported delays at check-in. Easter is usually a busy period for the rail operator, but while some services are already fully booked, there are plenty of trains still available between Paris and London. Masks are compulsory for the duration of the journey.

Health rules

The UK is now on France’s green list, which means that vaccinated travellers only need to show proof of vaccination to enter France. NHS certificates are accepted. Non-vaccinated travellers will need to show a negative Covid test at the border – full details here.

There are no Covid-related requirements to enter the UK.

Masks are required on all public transport in France and in transport hubs such as airports and stations. For services running from the UK to France, check the policy with your operator.

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TRAVEL NEWS

‘Arrive early’: Passengers at European airports warned of travel disruption

Europe's airports chief told passengers to leave time for delays this summer as the air travel industry struggles to meet surging demand after the pandemic.

'Arrive early': Passengers at European airports warned of travel disruption

“The clear conjunction of a much quicker recovery with a very tight labour market is creating a lot of problems,” Olivier Jankovec, head of the Europe branch of the Airports Council International (ACI), told AFP.

He said there were issues from airports to airlines, ground handlers, police and border controls, but insisted: “The system still works”.

READ ALSO: Budget airline passengers in Europe face travel headaches as more strikes called

“It’s important for passengers that they communicate with the airlines in terms of when they should get to the airport, and prepare to come earlier than usual to make sure to have the time to go through, especially if they have to check luggage,” he said.

Strikes by low-cost pilots and cabin crew across Europe – including this weekend – are adding to the disruption.

Speaking at the ACI Europe annual congress in Rome, Jankovec said airports had taken measures to improve the situation, which would come into effect from mid-July.

“Additional staff will be coming in July, the reconfiguration of some of the facilities and infrastructure to facilitate the flows will also come into effect in July,” he said.

“I think it will be tight, there will be some disruptions, there will be longer waiting times.

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

“But I think that in the vast majority of airports, the traffic will go, people will not miss their planes, and hopefully everybody will be able to reach their destination as planned.”

He also defended increases in airport charges, after criticism from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents airlines.

Airports face “the same difficulties and inflationary pressures” as airlines, which he noted were putting their fares up, he said.

“Staff and energy is 45 percent of our operating costs, and of course inflation is also driving up the cost of materials,” he said.

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