For members


Travel to France: Will there be French border delays this summer?

Amid strikes and fears of a shortage of French border control agents, plus infrastructure problems at UK ports, we take a look at travel into France this summer.

Travel to France: Will there be French border delays this summer?

Delays at passport control at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle airport have hit the headlines amid fears of problems at the French border during the peak summer travel season.

Problems experienced so far have not been major – they only affected Terminal 1 of the airport, lasted for a couple of hours during one morning and queues were about 60 minutes for arrivals and departures.

But it’s caused concern because we’re not yet in the peak travel period so there are worries about how systems will cope during the much busier summer season.

Hear the team at The Local talk about the summer travel forecast in the Talking France podcast. Download it here or listen on the link below

Border control agents

Aéroports de Paris – which runs Paris’ Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports – blamed a shortage of French border control agents for the problems in May.

Passengers seemed to back that up, with several tweeting pics of just 2 border guards dealing with all arrivals.

The border agents are under the control of the French Police aux Frontieres, and they admit that since last year they have had about 300 unfilled vacancies.

This is a nationwide problem, so it potentially affects all French airports, as well as land border crossing points, ports including Dover and Folkestone and rail terminals including London St Pancras.

They are, however, having a pretty major recruitment drive – both to be ready for this summer peak tourist season and for the Paris Olympics next year, when around 10 million visitors are expected for the Games.

Police aux Frontières say they plan to recruit 255 additional agents for the Paris airports by June and 500 before the end of 2024. For the whole country, the PAF wants to recruit 1,200 staff by the summer of 2024.

PAF director Fabrice Gardon, said that it was important to ensure security, but added: “It is the whole image of the country that is at stake, all the more so in the run-up to the Rugby World Cup and the Paris Olympics.”

So what can we expect for summer 2023?

French airports 

French airports say they have now largely resolved the staffing problems that they struggled with when travel reopened after the pandemic – although this does not include the border control agents.

At Charles de Gaulle airport a new space has recently opened up in Terminal 1, which passengers are reporting is more spacious and less chaotic.

On border control, as well as those extra border guards, the airport is installing 17 new Parafe automated passport gates.

Several French airports are also testing new systems such as allowing certain groups of non-EU passengers to use the automated passport gates, in order to speed processing times.

In addition to what is expected to be a busy summer for tourism, the rugby World Cup take place in France in September and October, and travel bosses will be using the high passenger numbers as a test for several systems that they hope to use during the Paris Olympics next year. 

British ports

Travel to France from the UK has an extra complication since the end of the Brexit transition period.

A shortage of French border control agents was also blamed for long tailbacks in the UK Port of Dover at the start of the 2022 holiday period, although subsequent further tailbacks would suggest that the problem is more complicated.

Long waits to get through passport control for people leaving the UK by ferry are more to do with infrastructure and Brexit.

Since Brexit, passport controls to enter France are stricter and therefore take longer, and the infrastructure of the Port itself means that it is difficult to expand the passport control area. The Le Touquet agreement means that both British and French passport checks for passengers departing the UK take place in the Port of Dover, while checks for passengers coming the other way take place in Calais.

There were reported problems at the start of the summer holidays last year when several French border guards were late for work, but since then there have been repeated bottle-necks at peak times such as the start of the UK school holidays.

The beginning of the Easter holidays saw long waits for coach passengers.

Although port managers are working on making things run smoothly at peak times, they are hampered by a lack of space.

New EU checks

The EU’s enhanced passport checks – known as the Entry & Exit System or EES – were due to come into effect this year, and many travel experts had sounded the alarm that the more complicated checking process would lead to longer waits.

The EU has now announced that the introduction has been postponed until 2024, with France lobbying hard to make this in the autumn or winter – after the Paris Olympics.


One thing that can never be ruled out in France is strikes, and the summer holidays are usually peak times for airline or air traffic control strikes, as unions take advantage of their opportunity to cause havoc and push their claims over pay and conditions. 

The nationwide strikes over pension reform have largely ended, but a one-day action on June 6th saw around 20 percent of flights in and out of France cancelled. There are currently no further pension strikes scheduled, but it’s not impossible that unions will call for further action.

You can find all the latest strike announcements and calendars in our strike section HERE

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For members


How punctual are trains in France compared to other countries?

We all know that France has a pretty impressive network of high-speed trains. But it's all very well being able to go at over 200km/h if your train is then stuck in the station - so how punctual are French trains?

How punctual are trains in France compared to other countries?

Figures from France’s Autorité de la Qualité de Service dans les Transports (AQST) paint a mixed picture of France’s rail services.

Its most recent Europe-wide study of train punctuality, published in 2021, looks at how many trains arrived within five minutes of their scheduled arrival times – and therefore includes both trains that were delayed and trains that were cancelled.

In the period covered by the study, France has seen regular rail strikes that have led to cancellations on the railways.

They survey found that 89.4 percent of all French trains arrived within five minutes of schedule in 2014. That figure had dropped to 87 percent by 2018 and rose again to 91 percent in 2019 – after peaking at 92 percent in 2020 (although the study’s authors caution that 2020 figures  figures should be taken with caution because of the pandemic). 

The punctuality rate in neighbouring Germany was 94.4 percent in 2014, 94.1 percent in 2018, 94.5 percent in 2019 and 96 percent in 2020. 

Overall, France is below average according to the study. In 2019, it was ranked eleventh out of 16 countries. Switzerland tops the podium with 97 percent of trains arriving on time in 2019, followed by the Netherlands, Denmark, and Austria. 

At the foot of the table, the countries where the risk of not arriving on time is greatest are Great Britain, Italy and Portugal.

Up to 2019, France’s TGVs and Intercités were well behind Spain and Netherlands, countries that run their high-speed services on dedicated lines rather than sharing them with less rapid services, for punctuality.

In 2019, however, Netherlands’ inter-city services ran within five minutes of schedules 96.2 percent of the time, compared to France’s 75.7 percent. Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Norway and Poland were all above France in the rankings.

Comparisons for long-distance rail services with Germany are harder to calculate because it does not distinguish between its high-speed services and other long-distance rail services. 

But, consolidating long-distance services shows that France offered more punctual services than Germany until 2019. By Covid-hit 2020, however, German long-distance services ran better than French ones.

As for regional services, the Netherlands topped the rankings there, too, with 97.6 percent of services on time to with five minutes. France (91.9 percent, including RER and Transilien services) was seventh, behind Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Germany and Ireland.

And, at a city level, Copenhagen, Madrid, Berlin, Stockholm, Helsinki, Warsaw, and Dublin’s urban services were more efficient – and more punctual – than Paris and Ile-de-France’s regional rail services.