European Commission Approves French Domestic Short-Flight Ban

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France has welcomed a European Commission ruling that the country’s move to ban domestic airline flights, for which a rail alternative of under 2.5 hours exists, is lawful.

In 2020, the French government proposed to impose a ban on Air France domestic routes for which high-speed train routes under 2.5 hours are available. It was one of the government’s conditions for providing multi-billion euro loans and guarantees as a state bailout to Air France during the COVID-19 pandemic. France later decided to broaden the restriction to airlines beyond just Air France.

French Transport Minister Clement Beaune said in a statement: “I welcome the commission’s decision, which will allow for the launch of new steps in the effective banning of flights when there is a rail alternative of less than 2.5 hr. This is a major step forward and I am proud that France is a pioneer in this field.”

However, environmental group Greenpeace said the law does not go far enough and urged France to follow the EC's advice to include connecting flights in the ban.

Greenpeace cited a report it published in October 2021 that concluded banning flights for which a rail alternative of less than 6 hr. existed would save 3.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.

The French government now plans to put the new law to public consultation, following which the French Council of State will have its say, before the law is adopted “as quickly as possible.”

The decision should be reviewed in three years, according to the commission’s ruling.

Air France has teamed up with French rail operator SNCF to launch the Train+Air product, which allows customers to make just one reservation that covers the train and air legs of their journey to a number of French destinations.

The partners recently launched a fully digital Train+Air product and Air France is exploring how it can work with other European rail operators in different countries on similar initiatives.

The French government has previously said it wants Air France to reduce CO2 emissions from flights within France by 50% by the end of 2024.

Helen Massy-Beresford

Based in Paris, Helen Massy-Beresford covers European and Middle Eastern airlines, the European Commission’s air transport policy and the air cargo industry for Aviation Week & Space Technology and Aviation Daily.