French strikes continue as easyJet, Ryanair and BA flights face further disruption

Rebecca Speare-Cole
A protestor throws a rock towards French Riot Police during a rally in Paris: Getty Images

France is facing a second day of disruption as major strikes which have affected travel across Europe enter a second day.

Planes are set to be grounded, trains axed and Eurostar services cancelled as French unions continue their walkout.

Air France said 30 per cent of domestic flights and 10 per cent of medium-haul flights will be cancelled on Friday.

EasyJet, Ryanair and British Airways have all announced that their flights will be disrupted again while Eurostar will run a reduced timetable until Tuesday.

It comes as Paris police fired tear gas at demonstrators as hundreds of thousands marched nationwide on Thursday for the first day of industrial action over the government's plan to overhaul the retirement system.

At least 90 people were arrested in the city by Thursday evening.

The strikes have led to school closures across the country, while people have been urged to stay away from major tourist spots - including the Eiffel Tower.

Empty tracks at the Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris on Friday as SNCF workers continue to strike (REUTERS)

Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne said she expects the travel troubles to be just as bad on Friday and unions said they will maintain the Paris subway strike at least through Monday.

In the western city of Nantes skirmishes broke out between police firing tear gas and protesters throwing flares.

A woman throws a bike into a burning blockade in Paris (AFP via Getty Images)

Thousands of red-vested union activists also marched through cities from Marseille on the Mediterranean to Lille in the north.

It is unclear exactly how long the strike will last. Unions say it is an indefinite movement and hope to keep up momentum at least for a week, in hopes of forcing the government to make concessions.

A french fire officer joins the protests against President Macron during a rally near Place de Republique (Getty Images)

BA said its flights to and from French airports will be affected, while certain airports in Spain and Switzerland will also face issues. It said the issues would run from Thursday until Saturday.

"Yet again industrial action in France will unfortunately cause unnecessary disruption for some of our customers travelling at this busy time," a statement from the airline said.

Chaos in Paris as thousands take to the streets (AP)

"We have had to cancel a number of flights but will be aiming to use larger aircraft where possible, on other services to help affected customers."

Meanwhile easyJet has reportedly cancelled more than 200 flights due to the issues.

Protestors wave coloured flares during a rally near Place de Republique in support of the national strike in France (Getty Images)

"Some air traffic control staff are joining the strike action and therefore like all airlines, our flights to and from French airports, as well as those flying in French airspace, could be affected," the airline said.

RyanAir has also cancelled a number of flights, with the airline apologising to customers. It said those affected have been contacted by SMS and email.

People stand next to the entrance of a metro station at the end of a demonstration in Paris (AP)

Eurostar trains are seeing issues to, with disruption expected "along all routes", with a reduced timetable from December 5 to 10. The company said it had cancelled almost 100 services between Thursday and Tuesday next week.

Workers at the national railway SNCF stopped on work on Wednesday evening while other services planned to shut down on Thursday morning for an indefinite period.

The strike is one of the largest nationwide strike in years (Getty Images)

The open-ended walkout by the country's unions represents the biggest challenge to Mr Macron since the yellow vest movement against economic inequality erupted a year ago.

Opponents fear the changes to how and when workers can retire will threaten the hard-fought French way of life. Macron himself remained "calm and determined" to push it through, according to a top presidential official.

Police said 65,000 people took to the streets of Paris on Thursday and over 800,000 nationwide in often-tense demonstrations aimed at forcing President Emmanuel Macron to abandon pension reform.

In the capital, small groups of masked activists smashed store windows, set fires and hurled flares on the sidelines of a march that was otherwise peaceful. Demonstrators also shot firecrackers at police in body armor. Some journalists were mugged in the street.

The Louvre closed some of its galleries, and the Palace of Versailles shut down. Many visitors, including the US energy secretary, cancelled plans to travel to one of the world's most popular tourist destinations.

Some travellers showed support for the striking workers while others complained about being embroiled in someone else's fight. Beneath the Eiffel Tower, tourists from Thailand, Canada and Spain echoed those sentiments.

Lacking public transportation, commuters used shared bikes or electric scooters despite near-freezing temperatures.

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