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Train strikes and travel insurance during strikes

We've been planning our 3 week trip to France for two years (and it just happens to being the day Euro2016 starts). We've purchased travel insurance for all our flights and TGV trains, but in reading the policies it states it does not cover cancellations during "civil disobedience" only costs for delays. Actually considering rebooking for outside France at this point. Is it any easier to find an earlier train if ours are cancelled vs waiting for the next available? I've got reserved seating for both legs paris to strasborg and lyon to narbonne, but the lyon to narbonne is a less scheduled route and on a saturday. Or is it smarter to keep our rental car at lyon instead?

Posted by
2916 posts

Is it any easier to find an earlier train if ours are cancelled vs waiting for the next available?

Based on my recent experience, as well as what I've read elsewhere, standard practice at SNCF is to allow you to take any other train on the same route during the time period of the strike, but you are not guaranteed a seat. In my case, we were able to get a TGV that was slightly earlier than the scheduled/cancelled one, and there were plenty of seats. It helped that it was a route (Paris-Bordeaux) that has plenty of trains, and that ours was the only one cancelled that day. A route with fewer trains and/or more cancellations might be different.

Posted by
16852 posts

If your train is cancelled and you're unable to get on another one or choose to drive, then the ticket is eligible for a refund through the point of sale, with certain time limits and paperwork. It does make sense to go to the station earlier than planned, if the remaining, operating trains are timed more toward commuters. If you're going to have to return the ticket to a US agent, it helps to have a station agent mark it "unused" and stamp their approval.

Posted by
2916 posts

If you're going to have to return the ticket to a US agent, it helps to have a station agent mark it "unused" and stamp their approval.

That's interesting Laura. After we took our substitute Paris-Bordeaux train with no one having checked tickets, I said to my wife: So what's to prevent someone from claiming they never took the train and asking for a refund?

Posted by
8293 posts

Taking part in a legal strike surely would not be considered "civil disobedience"

Posted by
16852 posts

Good question, Robert. I think the not-checking of tickets is common in the case of strikes. A French agent may give that as their reason for not stamping it for you, in which case, just follow other parts of the return procedure and deadlines. Rail Europe is asking their customers to "please attempt" if you have a ticket printed on special stock, but it would not apply with print-at-home tickets on plain paper.

Posted by
2 posts

Unfortunately, Norma, according to our travel insurance company, strikes are considered "civil disobedience", in other terms its a nice loophole the insurance company found to not pay claims if your trip is cancelled due to strikes, but they will pay "costs for delays" if you are merely "delayed on your travels" by the strikes. I'm trying to cancel our TGV train from Lyon to Narbonne, but have been unable to yet as we purchased travel insurance on that too and they won't let me cancel on the Rail Europe website (I apparently have to get in touch with them by phone during particular hours to cancel according to their website and there is currently a 90 minute wait time for the next representative). I did rebook all our rental cars into one longer-continuous rental to hopefully save us some headache when we get there.

Posted by
8293 posts

Insurance companies really are despicable. A legal strike in a democratic country is considered civil disobedience? I suppose a mass protest would be considered treason?

Posted by
12327 posts

Is it a "legal" strike? I don't know that to be true. Seriously, I don't know what the laws in France are. For instance their Air Controllers that are striking would be illegal in the US. Here is one of the better explanations I have seen: http://www.thelocal.fr/20160530/heres-how-youll-be-affected-by-frances-upcoming-strikes

Between well organized strikes, street protests and the recently issued warnings by the US State Department its sort of unfortunate to be in Paris this week. A shame for such a beautiful place. But I bet it wont be hard to make the best of it; or maybe call it a unique experience.

Posted by
158 posts

I have been reading the posts for several weeks now about the strikes as I will be flying to France
very soon. I have not read, however, any references to the bus companies and I assume they are not on strike and transporting passengers as usual? Although I prefer riding the train, and have already purchased three fairly long trips via the Captain Train website, it would be nice to be assured that the buses are still an option for many destinations. I was wondering also, if I should print my train tickets prior to arrival? Or just wait and see what the situation is? Another reason for printing may be that smaller stations may not have kiosks for printing?

Posted by
7532 posts

The strikes are legal, and we do know the French laws. The US law is unusual and was implemented after the 1981 PATCO strike. A similar law does not exist in France.

Train ticket printing: If you aren't sure the credit card you used to buy the tickets will work in the automatic ticket machines, you should print at home.

Posted by
6396 posts

To echo what Bets has said, yes the strikes are legal. That is why you see such things as my warning that the air traffic controllers had filed a motion to strike in advance. Those advance filings are part of the legal requirements. There are numerous laws, in fact, that govern the whole universe of striking - how far in advance you have to file the plan, what minimum service you have to provide, etc. etc. etc.

That's why in France, if you're paying attention, a resident will very rarely be surprised by a strike. The only instance I can think of is a work stoppage that for example RER conductors might undertake because they feel their work conditions are unsafe (e.g. if one of their colleagues has been assaulted by a passenger, you'll hear of an almost immediate work stoppage in solidarity). Almost every other instance, though, is notified in advance.

Posted by
2916 posts

There are numerous laws, in fact, that govern the whole universe of striking - how far in advance you have to file the plan, what minimum service you have to provide

Yes, Kim, that is fascinating, especially the part about minimum service. I've been wondering why, for example, when there's an SNCF strike, a significant percentage of the trains on any affected route still run (when my Paris-Bordeaux train was cancelled on March 31, I think it may have been the only one cancelled on that route, or maybe one other, but most of them ran). So maybe the "minimum service" requirement has something to do with it.

Posted by
7532 posts

The minimum service and advance notice rules were implemented under the Sarkozy government. It didn't use to be like this. A strike used to mean a large shut down and often without notice.