France to ban a handful of short-haul domestic flights

A line-up of jets taxi at a French airport.
Lasse Fuss, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – In a crackdown on the use of private jets, France is taking decisive action in a bid to improve its green credentials. The European Commission has agreed to ban flights between cities that are accessible by train in less than 2.5 hours.

This ban will initially be valid for three years, after which it will need to be reassessed by the Commission.

The idea came to be as part of the nation’s 2021 Climate Law. Proposed by France’s Citizens Convention on Climate, an assembly consisting of citizens that have ben tasked with new ways to reduce the carbon emissions in France. 

A challenge to the Bill

When the plans for this Bill were announced, there was backlash from the air travel industry. At the time it felt like it was piling further pressure on an already struggling market as it dealt with problems brought on by the Covid19 pandemic.

Also challenging the bill were the Union of French Airports (UFA) and the Airports Council International  (ACI).

Following this, the European Commission underwent an in depth investigation and found that a European Air Service Regulation stated that member states “where there are serious environmental problems” have the power to limit or refuse traffic rights, especially where other modes of transport provide a satisfactory service. 

Transport Minister Clement Beaune says that whilst the majority of the general public struggle through an energy crisis and ever worsening climate change, they can no longer tolerate the wealthy utilising private jets to make such insignificant journeys.

Organisations like Greenpeace recognise it is a step in the right direction towards improving sustainability, Sarah Fayolle a transport campaign manager for Greenpeace said: “It’s going in the right direction, but the initial measure is one that’s not very ambitious. We must go even further”

“Not very ambitious”

The ‘not very ambitious’ remark refers to the fact that only three routes between Paris Orly – Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux are ones that fit the criteria to be banned. Paris CDG – Lyon, Rennes would come into the picture if the rail services infrastructure sees investment and are improved. 

Both increasing the train schedule and introducing newer faster trains that can bring connecting cities together in under 2.5 hours would see further ‘air’ routes cancelled.

Statistics show that private jet travel is 14 times more polluting than commercial fights per passenger/mile and 50 times worse than trains. 

A step in the right direction

From where I’m sitting, a ruling such as this can only prove to be beneficial. I am not anti-wealthy. I certainly am pro-flying.

However, when we see the data behind the science and see that our earth is getting hotter by the year, then small steps such as these that will only really affect the Jeff Bezos’ of the world will be welcomed by me. 

If more countries were to implement similar rules that only targeted those small and seemingly insignificant routes that are easily accessible by train, then collectively we could see a large impact on the worlds carbon emissions if others follow suit. 

France may feel obliged to play its part and act as a pioneer on this front given that recent aviation data suggests that it has the greatest private jet traffic in Europe.

Transport Minister Beaune has committed to push the issue during European transport ministers meetings in an attempt to encourage other countries to follow France’s pioneering lead.

The super rich needn’t worry just yet. Government spokesman Olivier Veran has confirmed that they will not ban private jets completely, but we can expect to see further sanctions like an increase in tax and possible restrictions like companies being forced into publishing details of their corporate aircraft usage.

Both of these may be introduced in a bid to deter travellers from taking what he described as ‘flea jump’ flights.

This, paired with the research and development in the industry where airlines are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into Sustainable Aviation Fuel and manufacturers look into hydrogen powered engines, we could be approaching a new, more sustainable dawn in air travel.

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