What Should I Do If I’m Traveling to Paris?
For now, Paris is a city in mourning. As we often see in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, the security situation in Paris remains extremely fluid. And that could pose an issue for tourists, students and businesspeople who are traveling, or planning to travel, there.
Tourists line the steps of the Sacré-Cœur basilica in Paris. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
But it might be comforting to know that after Friday’s devastating and tragic attacks, Paris is still open to visitors. “Any scheduled travel can proceed with no issues since airports remain open,” Dan Richards, founder and CEO of the travel risk and crisis management firm Global Rescue, tells Yahoo Travel. “There is little threat of a follow-up attack at this point. Within the next few days, the city will slowly return to normal, albeit with a heightened security presence that will be in place indefinitely.”
Still Paris remains a city on edge. According to various social media posts, trains on the high-speed Eurostar between London and Paris were unusually empty in the weekend after the attacks. On its website, Eurostar is advising travelers to “please allow for additional time to check in and complete all security checks before travel.”
Empty train the morning after the attacks in Paris. (Photo: Twitter/Imelda Flattery)
Airlines are keeping a close eye on the aftermath of the tragedy. And they’re expressing sympathy as well. “On behalf of our more than 100,000 employees worldwide, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of France,” American Airlines said in a statement to Yahoo Travel.
Most major airlines tell Yahoo Travel they are now operating normally into and out of Paris. But they recognize that some people may want to reschedule their trips, so they have announced policies to accommodate them. However, the terms are on the strict side:
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Air France is offering those who bought tickets for travel to and from France on November 13 to November 16 the chance to modify their journeys. You can either postpone your trip for dates running until November 22, at no extra cost, in the same cabin class as your original ticket. If you wish to postpone your trip to France past November 22, change your origin or destination, or cancel your trip entirely, Air France is offering a non-refundable voucher valid for one year on Air France, KLM or the Air France subsidiary, Hop.
American Airlines is waiving its travel change fees for those who were scheduled to travel to Paris between this past Friday and Sunday, November 15, as long as they are open to travel through the 28th. You can also apply the value of your original ticket towards a new ticket to another destination, as long as it’s for travel before the 28th.
For those who had trips to, from or through France between last Friday and this coming Monday the 16th, Delta is allowing passengers the chance to reschedule to a travel date no later than November 22 (the change must be made by November 22).
United is also offering anyone who had scheduled flights to Paris (specifically, Charles de Gaulle Airport) for this past Friday through Sunday the 15th the chance to modify travel plans. It’s waiving change fees for new flights departing through November 21 (as long as it’s the same itinerary and in the same cabin as the original ticket ). For any other schedule changes, you may be able to get the change fees waived but you may be charged the difference in fare.
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If you’re already in Paris, you may find that the heightened security may restrict your movements. “There will be a high volume of police and security services beginning their investigations around the city,” Richards says. That means if you’re scheduled to fly, you might want to give yourself extra time to both get to the airport and go through security. Also, be sure to sign up for alerts from your airlines so that you can get an instant notification of any possible flight changes that may arise.
After the Paris attacks, destinations around the world have heightened security, including the Vatican. (Photo: AP)
And while Richards doesn’t expect any additional attacks in Paris in the coming days, he suggests travelers remain cautious. “Maintain your ability to communicate,” he says. “Program your cell phone with emergency numbers.” He also recommends avoiding crowds and public transportation during peak times.
But, reflecting the sobering times we live in, Richards says these recommendations don’t apply solely to the scene of this latest act of terror. “Vigilance needs to extend across the continent,” he warns. “This is no longer simply a problem for Paris or for France; it is potentially a problem for Europe. No matter where you travel, there is reason to be vigilant.”
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