French Airline Ticket Tax increase to fund €100 million Railway Plan

Terminal in Paris, Charles de Gaulle Airport
© Burkhard Mücke

Clément Beaune, Transport Minister of France, has implemented a tax on flight tickets in light of a July Report by Greenpeace revealing how inexpensive air travel is, compared to railway travel. This announcement follows the 2022 ban on short-haul flights within France to reduce carbon emissions, but only on those with a railway alternative. However, Beaune’s decision is notably controversial and has attracted criticism from the French Union of Autonomous Airlines, who claim they have given enough already. From the Union’s perspective, the tax is a result of ‘stigmatisation incessante’ (incessant stigmatisation) in comparison to other modes of transport and is “anti écologique” (‘anti-ecological).

A July 2023 report from Greenpeace found that airline tickets in France were significantly cheaper than railway tickets. On average, a train journey was 2.6 times the price of a flight. These findings suggest that higher flight prices may dissuade customers from travelling altogether in the face of rising airline ticket prices. However, Beaune’s entourage explained to the Parisien that the increase would affect only first-class or business-class tickets. It is solely travellers who are less sensitive to price increases, they explained, that will be affected. Accordingly, Beaune has suggested a tax raise on Private Jet Owners in 2024. The money raised will partly fund a €100 million plan to improve and expand France’s railways.

A view from a window on a First-Class Air France seat, subject to higher tax.
© Eric Salarde

The hundred million Euro Plan is just one facet of the “France Nation Vert” Ecological Plan. In a dossier distributed in October 2022, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne set an objective of a 55% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. The Prime Minister’s “global approach” to sustainability proposed twenty-two operational projects separated into six categories, including ‘Mieux se déplacer’ / Better Mobility. Both air and railway travel were listed.

Another July 2023 report by the campaign group Transport & Environment suggests that further airline taxation is overdue. Thanks to “unjustified” tax exemptions granted to European Airlines, the report identified a ‘tax gap’ – what might have happened if these exemptions were not given – of up to 34.2 billion Euros. Air France contributed the most to the gap, with exemptions granting the company a break of 2.4 billion Euros. If no one takes action, Transport & Environment predicts an increase of 38% in the gap by 2025.

First-Class and Business-Class tickets are highly profitable, and thus this development has led to questions about how exactly airlines will research and finance solutions to improve sustainability and achieve environmental objectives under further taxation. In light of the plan, SCARA cites the existing “Chirac Tax” on airline tickets implemented in 2005 and increased in 2020. In 2020-22, they claim, the tax has raised €250 million. “Le transport aérien a déjà donné” – they write — the Aviation Industry has given enough. Furthermore, SCARA claims air transport will achieve carbon neutrality as early as 2024 in Paris.

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Bella Pelster
Bella Pelster
I'm a Londoner with a huge passion for travel, history and sustainability. In my spare time I love reading novels (any genre, any author) and watching television and films (mostly the sopranos)!