The French government has become the first large economy to ban short-haul flights where a train or bus alternative of two and a half hours or less exists–a move which was voted on in 2021 and comes into effect in April 2022.
The flights affected are those from the capital, Paris to cities such as Bordeaux, Nantes or Lyon.
In 2021, the French government bailed out its domestic carrier Air France to the tune of €7 billion ($7.9 billion) after suffering losses due to the impacts of Covid-19, and it made the condition that the national carrier become more environmental conscious.
French Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne said at the time “we have asked Air France to accelerate its environmental transition” affecting up to 40% of flights where there is a rail link of under 2 or 2.5 hours.
The French government asked other carriers to do the same, noting that an absence of Air France flights might offer low-cost carriers an opportunity to move in and offer the same flights. Borne was quoted as saying, “if we are asking things of Air France, it’s not so that low-cost companies can come along and start their own service.”
However, one downfall listed by environmental groups is that the ban only applies to local traffic and not those flights that are connected to international flights–the implication being that it is debatable as to how much of the estimated 12% reduction in short-haul flights will actually be achieved.
This has been because the government has still needed to keep Air France flights competitive and a viable alternative on international flights through Paris from cities such as Lyon overseas, so that customers do not choose London or Amsterdam as a hub instead.
Other EU countries are also enacting similar environmental incentives to reduce carbon emissions around domestic travel. The Austrian government, for instance, included a similar condition during the bailout of Austrian Airlines, where domestic flights should be eliminated when there is an alternative train journey under three hours possible, such as between Vienna and Salzburg.
Greenpeace is advocating a ban on short-haul flights where there is a train alternative of under six hours, as reported by CNN Traveler. Greenpeace argues that this would impact a third of the Europe’s busiest short flights and eliminate 3.5 million tons of carbon emissions per year.