When the French strike, they can cause travel chaos and do. Their motto — Strike first and then negotiate. There have been recent transportation stoppages in some parts of the country, while the French unions have been striking against raising the retirement age from 60 to 62. Here are tips from the front lines.

Some students got into the act. (After all, who wants to attend school if they can participate in what is essentially akin to a 4th of July parade, complete with marching bands and trucks selling food?) The students are unhappy over the fact that if people work an extra two years, they might have a more difficult time getting jobs.

Since I’m in Paris, I haven’t been impacted because the metros and buses have been operational. Some might have been running a tad late, but it’s been no big deal. Ironically, it’s been easier to hail a taxi since some people didn’t or couldn’t get into the City of Light. Others simply stayed away and the taxi drivers have been singing the blues.

Long haul flights haven’t been impacted. Rather, it been the internal ones that were impacted. On Thursday, October 28th, 50 percent of the planes leaving and/or arriving at Paris’s Orly airport were grounded. People weren’t happy, even though they were prepared, since it’s Paris’s school vacation time and the French tend to get up and go.

The retirement proposal has been voted into law by the French Senat. Not wanting to take no as an answer, some airline staff and air controllers may continue flexing their muscles and another strike has been called for November 6th. Some are saying that because it’s anticipated that the weather will be colder and not quite as conducive to a day off, the strike has lost momentum. Also, employees are beginning to feel the economic pinch from striking rather than working.

France does not operate in a vacuum and when flights in one country aren’t taking off as scheduled, there’s a domino effect that spreads.

What to do:

– Check with your airline to make sure the flight is taking off and landing where it’s supposed to.
– Anticipate travel delays.
– If you’re flying into Paris and proceeding to another part of France, you may need to find an alternative mode of transportation (e.g. trains, which may or may not be on schedule) or wait for your flight to take you to your final destination.
– Most long-haul flights are operating but continue checking. Avoid transferring in Paris, if possible. Many business travelers with flexible tickets have already done that.
– Remain calm. Screaming at the airport’s personnel is not going to help and might hinder your getting on an on-going flight.

Check with your airline and access The French Airport site.

Bonjour Paris has been updating its news as frequently as possible. Please be assured it’s safe to come to Paris and we hope you will.

If you’ve been stuck in a French transportation strike, please post how and what you did. Even though many people don’t understand the strikes, for the French, “c’est normale” and they’re a French tradition. Please don’t believe the press reports that France is on fire. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bad news and photo opportunities sell.

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjour Paris