France faces more protests as pension strikes see planes and trains cancelled

Trains and planes are cancelled and a fresh wave of demos are planned for the weekend as fury grows in France over the decision of Emmanuel Macron's government to push through controversial pension reform without a parliamentary vote.

France faces more protests as pension strikes see planes and trains cancelled
More demos are planned for Saturday against the proposed pension reforms. Photo by Bertrand GUAY / AFP

Several unions have announced strike extensions including rail workers and air traffic controllers, leading to places and trains being cancelled over the weekend and on Monday.

The French civil aviation authority has ordered that 30 percent of flights in and out of Paris Orly airport and 20 percent of flights in and out of Marseille airport be cancelled on Monday as air traffic controllers extend their strike. 

Weekend flights have also seen cancellations. Other airports should be unaffected by cancellations, but there may be knock-on effects and delays for airline passengers, while flights travelling over French airspace may be re-routed. Anyone who has a flight booked is advised to check with their airline.

Details of any cancellations for flights on Tuesday and Wednesday will be released on Monday, while Thursday, March 23rd, marks the next one-day mass strike, so disruption is likely.

Rail workers have also announced an extension of their strike, so train services will again be disrupted over the weekend – 4 in 5 of the normal high-speed TGV services will run, 3 in 5 Intercité services and 3 in 5 of the normal services on the local TER network.

Trains will likely be disrupted during the one-day strike on Thursday, March 23rd, but some unions are calling to continue rolling strikes, so it’s likely that the rail network will see at least some disruption through the week.

Public transport in cities including Paris is running largely as normal over the weekend, with a slightly reduced service on the RER suburban train network.

Demonstrations are planned for towns and cities across France on Saturday – these are expected to be large with the possibility of trouble flaring towards the end of the demos (from around 5pm).

Smaller spontaneous demonstrations were held in multiple cities on Thursday and Friday after the announcement that the pension reform bill was being pushed through without a parliamentary vote – around 300 arrests were made in total and in some areas protesters set fire to street furniture and vandalised public buildings.

In pictures: Barricades set on fire as pension reform protests turn violent

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What to expect from Thursday’s pension strikes in France

Although protests are ongoing in France over controversial pension reforms, Thursday marks the next mass one-day strike - here's what to expect across the country.

What to expect from Thursday’s pension strikes in France

France’s eight trade union federations have called for employees to walk out on Thursday to express their anger at the government forcing through controversial pension reforms without a parliamentary vote. There will also be large-scale demos in towns and cities across France.

From planes and trains to schools and waste collection – here’s what to expect on Thursday, March 23rd.


France’s civil aviation authority, the Direction générale de l’Aviation civile, has instructed airlines to cancel 30 percent of flights in and out of Paris-Orly and 20 percent of flights in and out of Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse due to air traffic controllers striking.

Those cancellation figures are up from Tuesday and Wednesday, when 20 percent of flights to and from Paris-Orly and Marseille-Provence were grounded.

READ ALSO Strike calendar – the French pension strike dates to know


SNCF has warned that its services “will be severely disrupted” and recommended that travellers should cancel or postpone any scheduled trips if possible on Thursday, adding that the disruption will continue into Friday whether or not any further action is taken.

It said that one in two Inoui and Ouigo TGV services would run on Thursday, while regional RER services would operate at one-third usual capacity, on average. Intercités’ trains will run only between Paris and Clermont and Paris and Brive. No other day or night services will operate.

SNCF will issue updated information about Friday’s services by 5pm on Thursday.

READ ALSO Will pension strikes affect the Easter holidays in France?

You can listen to John Lichfield talk about the political crisis engulfing France in our new Talking France podcast on Spotify, Apple or Google podcasts. Download it HERE or listen on the link below.

City transport

Cities across France expect widespread disruption to public transport services throughout the day.

Paris public transport operator RATP has said that 80 percent of buses and 90 percent of trams will run on Thursday. About half of RER services will run on lines A and B, but the RATP has warned that the Metro will be “very disrupted”. 

Only the fully automated lines 1 and 14 will run normal schedules.

Line 2: 1 train in 3 running. Services running 5.30am -10am and 4.30pm – 8pm only. The station Barbès-Rochechouart will be closed.

Line 3: 1 train in 3. Services running 5.30am -11am and 4.30pm – 7.30pm; The stations République, Opéra and Havre- Caumartin (after 2pm) will be closed.

Line 3bis: no trains will run on this line.

Line 4: 3 trains in  4 running in the morning, 2 trains out of 3 in the afternoon, normal in the evening. Due to automation work, the line will close at 10.15pm; Stations Simplon, Strasbourg-Saint-Denis, Saint Placide, Alésia, and Barbara will be closed.

Line 5: 1 train in 3. Services running 5.30am – 9.30am and 4.30pm – 7.30pm only; Bastille station will be closed.

Line 6: 1 train in 3. Services running 5.30am – 8pm;

Line 7: 1 train in 2; Station Chaussée d’Antin La Fayette will be closed after 2pm.

Line 7bis: 1 train in 2;

Line 8: 1 train in 3 between Reuilly Diderot and Créteil Pointe du Lac and between Balard and Concorde only, between 6am-10am and 4pm-8pm;

Line 9: 1 train in 2; Stations such as Bonne Nouvelle, Grands Boulevards, Richelieu Drouot will be closed.

Line 10: 1 train in 2 between 6.30am – 9.30am only;

Line 11: 2 trains in 3 between 6am-11am and 1 train out of 3 between 4.30pm-7.30pm; Stations such as Jourdain, Pyrénées, Rambuteau and Hôtel de Ville will be closed.

Line 12: 1 train in 3 from 5.30am – 9.30am and 2 out of 3 trains between 4.30pm – 8pm;

Line 13: 1 train in 2 in the morning, 1 train in 3 in the afternoon. Services only between 5.30am and 8pm.

Line 14: traffic will be normal, but due to planned works the line will close at 10pm.


RER A: 1 train out of 2. The connection maintained at Nanterre prefecture. Auber station will be closed.

RER B: 1 train out of 2. The connection will maintained at Gare du Nord. The last train to leave Châtelet will be around 11pm.

RER C: 1 train out of 3.

RER D: 2 trains out of 5 on average. The connection will be maintained between Châtelet and Gare de Lyon.

RER E: 1 train out of 5 on average.


Line K: 1 train will run out of 2, but trains will not run outside of peak hours.

Lines H, J, L, N, P and U lines: 1 train out of 3 will run.

Line R: 2 trains out of 5 will run on average. Trains will only run during rush hour between Gare de Lyon and Montargis/Montereau via Moret.


Strikes and blockades at France’s ports have led to severe disruption in recent days, and unions expect more of the same on Thursday. This is largely targeted at commercial ports but could also affect ferry traffic.

READ ALSO Should you cancel a trip to France because of strikes and demos?

Fuel shortages

Because of the public transport strikes, commuters should expect heavier traffic levels on main routes in and out of cities on Thursday.

Refinery workers will continue with their strikes and blockades until Thursday at 9pm, at which point workers will vote on whether or not to renew the strikes

The French energy ministry has begun issuing requisition orders to force striking oil workers to release gasoline and diesel for service stations, which are running dry because of a lack of deliveries in some parts of the country.

MAP Where in France are blockades causing fuel shortages


In a pattern replicated across the country, the SNUipp-FSU union has warned that as many as 140 of Paris’s 645 primary schools will remain closed on Thursday, and predicted 70 percent of school staff in the capital would join the strike. It will be the second highest number of closures since 172 schools stayed shut for the walkout of January 18.

Refuse collection

The government has begun forcing striking refuse collectors in Paris back to work using requisition laws, however local officials estimate that it will take up to two weeks to clear the estimated 9,000 tonnes of rubbish from the capital’s streets.


Marches and demos will take place in towns and cities around France. In Paris, the march begins at 2pm at Place de la Bastille and heads to Opéra – there will be road closures along the road.