France this week banned domestic flights that have a second leg of less than two and a half hours. The Climate Law measure was approved in 2021, but quickly entered the judicial labyrinth. In return, the replacement of transport with the French network is promoted, which is proven to be less polluting.
Although the sector has privately warned that a “Pandora’s box” has been opened, for now the effect of the rule is very limited due to the authority of many exceptions which have been obtained by the courts in the airlines.
The ban, which comes into force today, Tuesday, does not affect connecting flights, it applies to routes between the same cities and flights and allows the presence of more than eight hours a day at the destination. In practice, the flights that meet the requirements of the decree are those that connect Paris with medium-sized cities such as Nantes (west), Lyon (east) or Bordeaux (south).
The law was partially suspended while the European Commission considered an appeal from the aviation sector after the Climate Law on August 22, 2021. was in use, before it was already applied this week, which forced the government of Air France to withdraw these. flight exchange for financial assistance in May 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
Why the ban on domestic flights in France still “has no impact”.
The organization of the main airlines A4E, which represents groups such as IAG (Airways, Iberia…), KLM or Ryanair, reiterated on Tuesday that the ban is “symbolic”. Governments have “real and serious solutions” to support decarbonised aviation, highlighted the organization, which recalled that this sector has committed to achieving carbon neutrality by the 2000s.
“There is already no impact,” acknowledged, for his part, the general delegate of the Union of French Airports (UAF), Nicolas Paulissen. He pointed out that only three lines directly affected by the covid pandemic crisis at the beginning of 2020 disappeared and were not taken.
These are the connections operated by Air France between Paris Orly Airport and the cities of Bordeaux, Lyon and Nantes. The most important was Orly-Bordeaux, which had 566,000 passengers in 2019, its last full year of operation.
An Air France spokesman confirmed that routes operated by the airline from another Paris airport, Charles de Gaulle, will not be affected by the order, which formally came into force on Tuesday.
The reason is that the decree, which was approved in the framework of the French climate law and whose purpose is to keep polluting emissions into the atmosphere, means that it will be another two and a half hours by rail to the railway station in Charles de Gaulle, and not only Paris.
Thus, Air France can continue to feed its European and intercontinental routes from that Charles de Gaulle platform with passengers arriving from various destinations in France.
Nor are the lines threatened by Orly, such as Paris-Nicaea, Paris-Toulouse or Paris-Massile, since in all these cases the train journey is more than three hours.
The judicial labyrinth of the law and the controversial journey of Messi and Mbappé
Pressure is growing in Europe to fight climate change and the carbon footprint of transport is in the spotlight, so the controversy.
The section on national flights included in the French Climate Law has entered judicial review after approval by the French Assembly.
The Union of French Airports appealed the ban to the European Commission, which disagreed with it and allowed the publication of the decision.
The publication was congratulated by the Minister of Transport, Clément Beaune, who was boasting on Twitter that France was in some way innovative, justifying the reduction of conservative gas emissions.
“Let’s do it first,” said the minister, after recalling that he had promised “to stop traders in the event of another (by train) in less than two and a half hours.”
After the inconvenience of the European Commission, the UAF was appealed to the Council of State, although with formal arguments: the government is based on a rule that allows the imposition of a ban on transport for a maximum of three years, if justified by reasons. pollution shows.
For French airports, the goal of limiting flights is to reduce emissions that cause global warming, and this is not a temporary problem that will disappear in three years.
But beyond the impact of the ban, the UAF is concerned because it considers that “Pandora’s box has been opened”. They believe that in the future such a ban could be imposed on European lines where there is an alternative train, for example in the Paris-Barcelona corridor.
In addition to commercial litigation, the most controversial issue is the private sector.
One of the last such episodes occurred in September 2022, when Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi, and other PSG stars under fire came to Nantes to compete in the match, a two-hour flight away.
The reaction of the coach Christophe Galtier and the superstar Mbappé did not help to calm the criticism: DT was ironic about the topic and stated that he asked if they could do the trips “in a sailing car”, when the striker of the French. He smiled at the team.