France Bans Domestic Flights on Routes Trains Can Reach in under 2.5 Hours

France has banned domestic flights on routes where passengers could complete the same journey by train in under 2.5 hours.

The measure is part of a climate and resilience bill that aims at cutting the country’s carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. French MPs in the National Assembly (the lower house) voted in favour of this measure on Saturday, 10 April 2021.

Routes affected include flights between Paris and Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux with exceptions for connecting routes. The routes in question were ones Air France already had to abandon in exchange for financial assistance in May 2020, but this vote would mean no other carriers could provide those routes either. Prior to the pandemic, these routes carried nearly one million passengers annually.

The French government has also said in recent days it would provide a further 4 billion euros to Air France, which would more than double its current stake in the carrier, in order to help it ride out the collapse in passenger numbers during the coronavirus pandemic. There was some criticism that these two measures were contradictory. However, the French Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher disagreed. Saying flights are not suitable for all routes from a climate target perspective is not the same as saying there is no place for aviation.

Naturally the aviation industry did not respond favourably to this vote, particularly since airlines will have to compensate emissions for all domestic flights through the purchase of carbon credits starting in 2024. Others criticised the bill for not going far enough, saying the ban on domestic flights should have extended to all routes reachable by train in under four hours.

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