In a massive breakthrough for the advancement of sustainability in the aviation sector, France has been given the ‘go-ahead’ to ban short-haul domestic flights.
An environmental breakthrough
On Friday, 2nd December, it was announced that The European Commission had approved the ban, which will put an end to flights between cities with easy train links of less than 2.5 hours. The decision comes after French lawmakers voted to ditch short-haul domestic flights in 2021. With the current definition of a short-haul flight being any flight between 30 minutes and 3 hours, the new move will be instrumental in cracking down on unnecessary flights.
One of the European Air Services Regulation articles states that a member state may “limit or refuse the exercise of traffic rights […]” in the instance of “serious environmental problems […]”. France has become the first EU member state to act on this article.
Nevertheless, despite bringing a very serious conversation to the forefront of mainstream media, France is not entirely the first of its kind. Due to the pandemic, Austria implemented a COVID-19 crisis support programme for Austrian Airlines in 2020. This involved adding a 30 euros tax for all flights under 350km as well as the prohibition of plane journeys that could instead be made via train under 3 hours.
Such legislation is also in the pipeline for Germany, which recently doubled the tax on tickets for short-haul flights.
Aims to discourage short-haul flights
Even with the ban in France, the new rules will only apply to routes where genuine and sufficient rail alternatives are available. In France’s case, this only applies to three routes. Plane journeys between Paris-Orly and Bordeaux, Nantes, and Lyon, will now be prohibited under the new rules. The commission declined two other suggested routes – from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Bordeaux and Nantes – however, both train journey times exceed 2 hours and 30 minutes.
The ban is set to go on for three years, and then, if deemed successful, more flights will be added, although this will also require increased sufficient rail routes between some areas. As part of the EU’s TEN-T project (whose main goal is to ensure the cohesion and interconnectivity of the trans-European transport network), new high-speed rail lines are in planning. These rail lines will hopefully decrease the popularity of short-haul domestic flights across Europe.
The current travel time from Milan to Paris by train is seven hours; however, the new opening of a 36-mile-long Mont Cenis Base Tunnel under the Savoy Alps will see this journey halved.
No limit to success
Despite making great headway for greener air travel, Green campaigners have insisted that this is just a step in the right direction. More radical changes need to be implemented to dissuade travellers from jumping on short-haul flights. Karima Delli, a French Green MEP, acknowledged the “victory” of the news; however, she iterated that the ban should also include flights that can be replaced by rail journeys of up to 4 hours.
Revolutionary or Ineffective?
On a similar note, Airport Council International (ACI) Europe have suggested that banning short-haul flights may be counterproductive as the implementation of decarbonisation features such as hydrogen and electric aircraft will begin with short-haul flights.
A spokesperson for ACI also said “flights below 500km account for only 4.3% of aircraft emissions in Europe, so a ban would not solve aviation’s climate problem.” This compares to studies of longer flights which state that in 2020, flights over 4,000km produced more than 50% of Europe’s aviation Carbon dioxide emissions. This is despite only making up 6% of all departing flights, suggesting that the effects of the short-haul flight ban may be more understated than initially expected.
Do you think the new legislation will be effective or prove pointless? Let us know in the comments!