French unions staged a national day of protests on Thursday, a day after President Emmanuel Macron issued a defiant defense of having forced through an increase of the retirement age.
The day began with spontaneous protests, while official demonstrations were planned for later in the day.
The demonstrations were the ninth round of protests called by France's major unions since January and follow days of unplanned protests over the weekend.
"The best response we can give the president is that there are millions of people on strike and in the streets," said Philippe Martinez, who leads the CGT union.
Transport stopped nationwide
On Thursday morning, protesters blocked road access to Terminal 1 at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
Meanwhile, around 30 percent of flights at Paris Orly Airport were canceled.
Railway operator SNCF said half of its high-speed trains had been canceled because of worker strikes.
Numerous train services in Paris and Marseille were also suspended.
Protesters also blocked major highways and interchanges near Lille, Toulouse, Lyon and other cities.
Macron's approval sinks
Polling on Sunday showed that Macron's personal approval rating had fallen to 28 percent — the lowest level since the Yellow Vest anti-government protests in 2018 and 2019.
On Wednesday, Macron made his first public remarks since the pension bill was forced through Parliament. He said he was prepared to accept unpopularity because the changes were "necessary" and "in the general interest of the country."
Macron has come under heavy criticism for refusing to entertain tax increases on the wealthy as an alternative means of maintaining state revenue. Critics have also slammed the pension reform as placing an increased burden on manual laborers and parents who stop working for several years to raise children.
Laurent Berger, the head of France's biggest union, the moderate CFDT, said Macron's comments "increased the anger."
Meanwhile, Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt said the government was not in denial about public sentiment but would nevertheless move forward "gradually."
"There is a disagreement that will persist on the retirement age," he said. "On the other hand, there are many subjects which make it possible to renew a dialogue.”