Limiting damage from French air traffic strikes and water shortages

Imagine being on the long-awaited French summer holiday in the capital of culture, wine and gastronomy, only to find that the swimming pool is half-empty, there are huge queues for petrol every day and the trains are not running due to a new round of strikes against the pension reforms of President Macron.

French unions have been on strike since January over plans by President Macron’s government to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. The government passed the law with executive powers and hopes to have it in force by September 1.

However, the unions have vowed to keep fighting over the summer, with the head of the largest union, the CFDT, Laurent Berger saying this week that “the fight is on”.

Unions plan to disrupt everything from oil refineries to the power grid to force the government to change its mind. The current large-scale threat is to cut power to events such as the Cannes Film Festival and the French Open tennis championships, both of which begin this month.

The next strike is scheduled for June 6, when all unions – teachers, transport, garbage collectors, air traffic controllers – will take strike action on the same day, effectively trying to bring the country to a standstill. After that, the unions will decide if and when to call the next one-day strike.

Because many of these unions affect how people can get around, visitors are often affected and travelers will need to have backups in place. For example, whenever there is a strike by French air traffic controllers, around 20-30% of flights are canceled on the actual day, and the days before and after also see a spike in cancellations of around 10-15%. This also includes flights traveling over French airspace but not planning to land in France.

The good news is that there are ways to protect yourself against impending shortages and strikes in France, mostly with good planning and insurance – here are the two most important tips.

Fully refundable/exchangeable tickets and a full tank of gas

No one would obviously plan to travel on a day when much of the country will be on strike, but strikes are often announced as soon as the last one has taken place – so make sure you have fully transferable tickets or insurance to cancel and rebook travel if you suddenly find yourself traveling on a day when air traffic controllers and rail workers plan to strike. Try to travel at least a day or two before the day of the strike to limit the impact on your travel.

It is also advisable to make sure you have a full tank of petrol before embarking on long journeys – the Paris region and the south of France have been particularly affected by fuel shortages at petrol stations since the start of the year due to oil refinery blockades.

Check if the accommodation is on the French mainland

Last summer we saw a huge water shortage in much of France, which caused some regional disputes between locals who were asked to reduce their water use (reduced watering of plants, for example) and arriving tourists who were happily lazing in hot tubs. full of water.

Be careful with water consumption in areas where you know there is a limited supply – many regions have already implemented drought measures. There are current bans on filling swimming pools in much of France and Environment Minister Christophe Bechaux has gone further to ensure people with pools are not tempted to break the rules – he has banned the sale of above ground swimming pools in the south of France.

If you have booked a villa or hotel with a pool, contact the property to make sure it will be full and refillable. Otherwise, if you’re looking for water, it’s best to book somewhere near the sea.

As a responsible traveller, pay attention to your water consumption when traveling in any part of Europe during the summer, where extreme temperatures and droughts are increasingly the norm.

Likewise, be aware of the causes of forest fires when hiking or visiting rural areas. Fires are becoming more common in France during the summer — last year’s “monster fire” was in a region not normally associated with forest fires, the Landiras region, south of Bordeaux.

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