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Strikes, prices and services – what you need to know about Christmas travel to France

For the past two Christmases strict Covid rules prevented many people from travelling - this year that isn't an issue, but there are strikes, service reductions and high ticket prices to contend with.

Strikes, prices and services - what you need to know about Christmas travel to France
Photo by DOMINIQUE FAGET / AFP

Whether you’re a foreigner in France planning a trip to see friends or relatives over the festive season, a second-home owner or you’re planning a Christmas or New Year trip to France, here’s what you need to know. 

Strikes

Let’s start with something particularly French – strikes.

At present there are no strikes confirmed for the holiday season, although cabin crew on several airlines have threatened strike action in a series of increasingly bitter pay disputes. However that doesn’t mean strikes can’t be called nearer the time, you can find all the latest information on our strike page HERE.

But just because a strike is called, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be able to travel – we take a look here at how to interpret French strike threats, and whether you should cancel your trip.

If you’re taking a trip to the UK, be aware that rail workers are currently engaged in a protracted battle to secure pay increases that will help them cope with the soaring cost of living, and several rail strikes are planned over the holiday season.

If you’re going to Italy there are widespread air and rail strikes in November that could continue into December, while Germany has also seen airline strikes. Low-cost airlines in Spain are also staging strike action that is currently scheduled to last until after Christmas.

You can find the latest in Italy here, Spain here and Germany here.

Services

After two years of limited services as passenger numbers crashed during the pandemic there is now a lot more choice – but some services are still restricted compared to 2019. 

French trains are back to pre-pandemic levels and in fact many lines have increased services as more and more people opt to take the train for environmental reasons. This includes international services like the Lyria to Switzerland, Thalys to the Benelux and Renfe to Spain but not the Eurostar (see below).

READ ALSO How to save money on French train tickets

Airlines have largely resumed their pre-pandemic timetables between big cities such as the Paris-New York flights, but several regional French airports still have fewer services than before. New rules on domestic French flights mean that some routes within France such as Paris to Nantes have been stopped altogether. 

Services between France and the UK have also seen some post-Brexit effects with both the Eurotunnel and ferry companies running fewer services – although the Eurotunnel is planning to offer services every half hour over the Christmas period. People taking the ferry from the UK are advised to allow 90 minutes for pre-boarding checks at busy times. 

Travel to France: What has changed since Brexit?

The Eurostar is running around one third fewer services in order to avoid massive queues due to the post-Brexit passport check rules, and passengers are now advised to allow 90 minutes for pre-boarding checks. Financial troubles at the company have also seen ticket prices rise.

If you’re planning a ski holiday, there is now a direct train from London to a selection of French ski resorts, although the Travelski Express can only be booked as part of a package holiday.

Prices

But for many people, the prices have ruled out travel over the holiday season – with many American readers telling us that they have either decided not to travel, or have travelled at a different time of year to see friends and relatives.

Prices for long-haul flights have seen big increases, almost doubling on some routes, while short-haul flights seem to be less affected.

If you’re planning to take the Eurostar, it too has raised its prices in response to financial troubles at the parent company.

Prices on French trains have not seen a significant increase – although one is planned for 2023 to cope with rising utility prices – while other operators have seen smaller price rises, keeping in mind that Christmas and New Year is always an expensive time to travel. 

You can find the latest travel news in our travel section HERE, and we will update this article with any new developments ahead of the festive season.

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STRIKES

French airline staff threaten strikes over Christmas

Unions representing cabin crew on several airlines have threatened to take strike action over the Christmas holidays in a series of increasingly bitter pay disputes.

French airline staff threaten strikes over Christmas

Cabin crew for Air France have already outlined dates for possible strike days, while unions representing staff at Easyjet and Ryanair are threatening “massive disruption” unless their demands are met.

The SNPNC-FO union, which represents cabin crew working in France, is calling for pay increases for its members working for budget airline Easyjet, warning that if no agreement is reached there will be a “very high risk” of walk-outs over Christmas.

Strikes, prices and services – what you need to know about travel over Christmas 2022

No exact dates have been proposed yet, but the union says that the current pay offer does not cover the rising cost of living, adding “the management will be responsible for the disruptions suffered by our customers”.

Cabin crew at Air France have filed a provisional strike notice from December 22nd to January 2nd, although whether staff actually walk out depends on how the pay negotiations go.

“This notice should serve as a warning to our management,” explains a union leaflet. “If this warning is not heeded, only a strong mobilisation will be able to tip the balance.”

So far the only confirmed strike action is at Air Antilles and Air Guyane – which mostly run flights between France and the Caribbean and French Guyana. Their staff will be walking out between December 17th and December 22nd, unless there is a breakthrough in pay negotiations. 

Ryanair crew working in Belgium have also threatened strike action over Christmas, although so far their French colleagues have not revealed any strike plans. 

Things look better for rail and ferry travel, with no strikes currently planned – although anyone with a trip to the UK planned should be aware of strike days planned by British rail staff over the Christmas and New Year period.

French airport ground staff and air traffic controllers won themselves a pay rise after strike action over the summer holidays. 

You can find all the latest strike information for France on our strikes page HERE.

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