France on Tuesday formally banned short-haul domestic flights that can be reached by train in less than two-and-a-half hours – a move aimed at reducing airline emissions but also angering the industry.
Although the measure is already included in the 2021 climate law and applied in practice, some airlines have asked the European Commission to investigate whether it is legal.
The change will mostly exclude air travel between Paris and regional hubs such as Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux, with connecting flights unaffected.
Critics point out that the cutoff for similar train travel is worse than the roughly three hours it takes to travel by high-speed train from Paris to the Mediterranean port city of Marseille.
The law does state that train services on the same route must be frequent enough, timely and well-connected to meet the demand of passengers who would otherwise be traveling by air — and be able to absorb the increase in passenger numbers.
People making such trips should be able to make both outbound and return train journeys on the same day, with an eight-hour stay at the destination.
The government has ensured that Air France complies with the plan in exchange for the 2020 coronavirus financial support package.
Competitors are prohibited from simply filling the void.
Laurent Donceel, interim head of the Airlines for Europe (A4E) industry group, told AFP that governments should support “real and important solutions” to airline emissions, rather than “symbolic ones”. ban”.
He added that Brussels had found that “banning these travels had a negligible impact on CO2 emissions”.
A4E has highlighted its own 2050 net-zero emissions strategy, which includes switching to non-fossil jet fuel and deploying battery- or hydrogen-powered aircraft.
The move comes as French politicians have also been discussing how to reduce emissions from private jets.
While Green MPs called for a complete ban on small private flights, Transport Secretary Clement Borne last month lagged behind imposing higher climate charges on users next year.