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Strikes in France Wreak Havoc on Travelers

Ongoing strikes in France are impacting travel, and figure to get worse as the week progresses. The New York Times reports “the French civil aviation authority said on Monday it was asking airlines to cut flights into French airports by up to 50 percent on Tuesday because of possible strikes by airport personnel.”

The biggest cuts, around 50 percent, would come at Paris’ Orly International, with other airports cutting service by 30 percent.

Adding to the situation is a growing gasoline crisis. Oil industry workers have blocked access to refineries, resulting in a fuel shortage for autos, trains, and aircraft. CNN reports 1,000 gas stations have run out of fuel, and more could run dry this week if the country’s refineries remain closed off.

Our own Kate Sitarz was in Paris last week, and described her experience dealing with the strike: “SCNF employees at train stations were handing out papers with train schedules each day, as service was constantly disrupted, especially on the RER lines. For example, we showed up to St. Michel planning on heading to Versailles on both Tuesday and Wednesday, as both days the Versailles website had no information on closures. Both days there was a sign at the station saying Versailles was closed, though the train station was open. However, on Thursday, Versailles was open, but the train station, Versailles-Rive Gauche, was closed, which forced travelers to get off at Versailles Chantiers, making it extremely crowded and a slightly longer walk to the Chateau.

The high-speed TGV lines had significantly cut schedules, forcing us to scrap plans to get to Reims. Having Internet didn’t exactly help—the SCNF website was possibly the only one that actually had any updates, and even then you couldn’t find out too far ahead of time since the decision to keep striking was a day-to-day thing.

We stumbled upon our fair share of demonstrations, but they were easy to spot and avoid. For the most part, shops and restaurants were operating normally. ”

The strikes are in response to a plan to raise retirement ages, a move the government says is essential to restoring France’s fiscal health. A vote on the measure is due Wednesday, meaning the strikes could intensify tomorrow and possibly worsen later this week, depending on the outcome.

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