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Delays and cancellations are expected from today as French air traffic controllers begin a six-day strike.
The strike over budget cuts is not as large as first feared, as one of the two unions that announced the action backed out at the last minute. However, flights to and from France, and also many flights that travel across French airspace will still be cancelled or delayed.
Eurocontrol, a European air safety organisation, estimated almost 14,000 hours of delays over the strike period. A similar walk out last year led to the cancellation of around 1,800 flights a day across Europe.
Ryanair has cancelled 26 flights to and from France, and British Airways has cancelled three return flights from Heathrow to Toulouse, Marseille and Lyon. Easyjet has cancelled 28 flights, but none of these are from UK airports.
Airlines have said that they will update customers daily on further cancellations.
BA said: “The level of disruption is likely to fluctuate in different parts of France at different parts of each day.
“Unfortunately this industrial action is also highly likely to lead to delays on other short-haul services which have to overfly France.”
“We expect to receive information from the French authorities the day before each strike event as to the levels of mandated cancellations for all airlines on each route.
“We aim to publish our revised schedules by 1400 GMT each day for the following day’s flights.”
Advice for travellers affected by the strikes
A statement on the Easyjet website said: “For cancelled flights, all our customers will be offered a free of charge transfer to a new flight or a full refund.
“We strongly advise customers who wish to travel and want to rebook Easyjet flights to AVOID rebooking flights for any day between 24th-30th June as there is a high likelihood of further disruption that could cause further cancellations.”
Ryanair has urged the French Government and European Union to intervene, calling for the air traffic controllers’ right to strike to be removed and in the meantime to allow neighbouring air traffic providers to keep the skies over France open over the strike period.
Ryanair’s chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs said: “It is high time the EU Commission removed these air traffic controllers’ right to strike, in the same way as ATC in the US, and many of Europe’s armies and police forces, are prohibited from striking by law, to stop Europe being held to ransom by a small number of air traffic controllers every summer.”
The Civil Aviation Authority is proposing a new “noise tax” similar to The Tax on Air Transport Noise introduced in France in 2005, reports the Telegraph.
In its recently published Managing Aviation Noise report, the CAA proposed measures aimed at reducing noise from aircraft taking off and landing at airports in the UK, and compensating those living nearby.
The CAA said the tax would be a ‘last resort’, but if implemented it would penalise flights according to how much noise pollution they cause, with proceeds going towards paying for insulation in communities near airports. It could adopt a similar system to that in France whereby airlines are taxed depending on the number of people affected, the aircraft’s weight at takeoff, and the noise rating and time of day.
The report said: “If other measures do not go far enough to engage the aviation industry in the effort to manage noise, policymakers could consider a further incentive applied with the introduction of a noise tax.”
The latest TripAdvisor Choice Awards for Destinations show a marked shift in desired city breaks for 2014.
Traditional destinations such as Paris, Barcelona and New York have all dropped significantly down the rankings, making way for more Asian destinations, with Beijing, Hanoi, and Shanghai all breaking into the top 10 for the first time.
Other favourites, such as Sydney, fell 12 positions to 22, and San Francisco fell 18 places to 25. London, however, remains as popular as ever and maintains its number three position for the second year running. It was pipped to the top spots by Istanbul and Rome, taking first and second place respectively.
TripAdvisor spokesperson James Kay said: “It is interesting to see traditionally popular destinations Paris, New York and Barcelona drop down the rankings.
“This year’s results show that there are a number of destinations around the world that are starting to compete with the more traditional ones.
“However, London still continues to sustain its position in the top five and while there is no doubt the birth of the royal baby helped keep the eyes of the world on London in 2013, but the capital’s continued appeal among travellers around the world surpasses any one event.”
In the UK Awards, two seaside destinations crept into the top 10 this year. Torquay in Cornwall is in a very respectable third place, and Llandudno in Wales sits pretty in eighth place.
The awards were determined by an algorithm on the TripAdvisor website that took into account the quantity and quality of reviews and ratings for accommodation, attractions and restaurants gathered over a 12-month period.
The 2014 TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Destinations winners
World’s top 10
9. Siem Reap
Europe’s top 10
9. St Petersburg
UK’s top 10
For those of you who hate flying, but find it the cheapest way to travel abroad, you could be in luck. Brittany Ferries is launching its new no-frills service to France and Spain from 26th March.
Brittany Ferries économie is designed to appeal to passengers wishing to travel to France and Spain on a budget and without the onboard services normally available.
French catering will still be available, but with limited choice. Cabins won’t have carpets but will still have en-suite facilities; and entertainment will be limited to a movie lounge. There will be two specially adapted cabins for disabled passengers, and 12 pet-friendly cabins.
Group commercial director Mike Bevens said: “Whilst our services to western France have been established for many years, those to Spain are currently enjoying great success, so we are seeking ways to build on this and grow the market.
“We feel that there is an opening for a no-frills, great-value service which will appeal to those who are on a tight budget and may not have even considered travelling by ferry before.
“The Brittany Ferries promise has always been about “choice” – we have ten routes, plus high-speed services, as well as cruise ferries – and this is taking the concept one step further.”
There will be a weekend service between Portsmouth and Santander in northern Spain and five return crossings between Portsmouth and Le Havre, one as freight-only.
One-way fares start at £79 for a car plus two to France and £169 (including reclining seats) to Spain.
Bookings will open online shortly, but in the meantime registrations can be made by calling 0871 244 1400.
Flybe is adding seven new routes from Birmingham from April and May 2014.
Flybe will offer flights from Birmingham to:
– Florence six times a week
– daily flights to Cologne
– Toulouse six times a week
– Alicante five times a week
– Bordeaux, Palma Mallorca and Porto four times a week
Birmingham will become the airline’s biggest regional base when it adds three of its 2×2 seat Embraer 175 jets to the airport.
Seats are on sale now, with one-way fares from £34.99 including taxes and charges. Flights start on 10th April to Alicante, Cologne, Florence and Porto, and from 13th May for the rest.
Air traffic control strikes in Europe will affect flights today and tomorrow.
Passengers flying to Milan, Rome, Venice and Lisbon will be particularly badly affected, with many services cancelled.
Airlines worst affected are British Airways, Alitalia and Ryanair. Easyjet said is has re-scheduled some flights to avoid the strike times, but there might still be an impact due to the knock-on effect of the industrial action across networks.
Ryanair has cancelled some flights from Gatwick to Cagliari, and Stansted to Bari, and warned of possible delays to other services.
Italian air traffic controllers are on strike from 13:00 until 17:00 local time; Portuguese controllers are on strike from 07:00 to 09:00 and from 14:00 to 16:00 local time.
French air traffic controllers will walk out later today until the early hours of Friday morning. Easyjet has had to cancel a small number of flights to Paris because it said all airlines operating to and from Paris airports had been requested to reduce flights by 20%.
New super fast trains will open up travel through Europe. One million passengers are predicted to cross the French/Spanish border in the trains in 2014, according to Rail Europe.
The new high-speed service between Barcelona and Paris is almost full to capacity across all its three classes since its launch in December. The twice-daily (6h25m) service is hailed as a major improvement on the overnight service it replaced, the Elipsos Trenhotel.
Other France to Spain high-speed services include Barcelona-Montpellier (2h50), Barcelona-Toulouse (3h02), Barcelona-Lyon (4h40) and Madrid/Barcelona-Marseille (7h03).
The trains run at speeds of up to 320kmph. Facilities on board include free wi-fi, restaurants and bar areas.
Manager Australasia of Rail Europe, Richard Leonard, explained that without the previously required train changes at Figueres, travellers are enjoying faster services which will encourage travel beyond the main cities.
“With less travel time involved, leisure travellers are also more encouraged to go beyond Paris, Barcelona and Madrid to explore other cities,” he said.
Explore France and Spain from your perfect holiday villa from Villaseek.com
Flybe picture by Flickr user khrawlings
Flybe is scaling back its operations by cutting another 24 routes across its network.
Starting from January 2014, the airline will withdraw 10 year-round, and 14 summer-only routes from the UK.
Already confirmed cancellations are Gatwick flights to Belfast City, Guernsey, Jersey, Inverness, Isle of Man, and Newcastle from 30th March 2014. Affected passengers are being contact to be offered an alternative Flybe flight were possible, or a full refund.
Cardiff and Glasgow to Paris services will stop in January, but will be temporarily reinstated from 20th to 24th February for the Six Nations Rugby tournament.
Chief commercial officer Paul Simmons said: “We recently announced that we would be reconfiguring our route network as part of a carefully planned strategy to optimise our operations.
“We have since taken a long hard look at all the routes we fly to make sure that our new schedule is what our customers really want and that they operate at the best possible times for everyone.”
Most of the latest closures will happen on 19th January but some are stopping on 5th January.
Year-round route withdrawals
Belfast City – Paris CDG 19.01.14
Bristol – Jersey 07.01.14
East Midlands – Paris CDG 13.01.14
Exeter – Newcastle 28.03.14
Glasgow – Shannon 05.01.14
Hannover – Southampton 19.01.14
Leeds Bradford – Southampton 19.01.14
Cardiff – Glasgow 19.01.14
Cardiff – Paris CDG 19.01.14
Glasgow – Paris CDG 19.01.14
Summer seasonal routes
Exeter – Barcelona
Southampton – Barcelona
Belfast City – Jersey
Bristol – Isle of Man
Edinburgh – Knock
Exeter – Nice
Isle of Man – Jersey
Isle of Man – Luton
Isle of Man – Southampton
Jersey – Luton
Jersey – Newcastle
Limoges – Newcastle
Newquay – Norwich
Southampton – Beziers
Summer Sun picture by Flickr user Ian A Kirk
The summer schedule for 2014 has been announced by Easyjet as flights to 100 destinations now go on sale.
It has more than 11.5 million seats, almost 300,000 more than last summer.
With so many seats going on sale, now might be a good time to book your summer holiday and villa while you can get some good bargains and not have to think about it until it’s time to jet off!
With flights to Spain, Italy, France, Greece and many more, we have a holiday villa to suit your needs.
The Channel Tunnel picture by Flickr user jespahjoy
Britain and France plan to reject the European Commission’s request to reduce the charges for passenger and freight trains using the Channel Tunnel.
The Commission said excessively high track-access charges meant for higher ticket prices for Eurostar passengers from London to Paris and linking to Brussels. A spokesperson for the Commission said 43% of the tunnel’s capacity was not being used partly as a result of the high charges.
Eurotunnel currently charges a one-way reservation fee of €4,320 for Eurostar trains and €16.60 per passenger. EU officials claim that if the charges were roughly halved, then the amount of daily freight train services would double and make up the difference.
Under EU law, rail companies can only charge fees consistent with the amount of wear caused by a train journey. However, a Commission investigation claimed charges by Channel Tunnel operators were more than necessary and they were using the income to subsidise the operator’s car shuttle service, which does not pay such charges.
The French transport ministry confirmed that it found the Commission’s grievances unfounded. A spokesperson said: “We will argue that these charges are based on long-term costs – that they include the cost of building the infrastructure and amortising the investment, that they don’t only take into account operational costs and that this is in line with a European directive”.