Short-haul flights ban: France as a role model?

Domestic flights on routes that take less than two and a half hours to travel by train are to be banned in France. A corresponding bill following up on proposals by the Citizens' Convention for Ecological Transition has been passed by the National Assembly. The move meets with approval in Europe's press, but there are also questions about its impact.

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The Guardian (GB) /

No need to fly from London to Manchester

France is making the right move, environmental activist Leo Murray comments in The Guardian:

“Apart from a few exceptions in particularly remote regions, domestic flights in small countries must be among the least necessary of all. Just over half a million flights were taken every year between London and Manchester before the pandemic, a journey that takes around two hours by train. Because so much of the pollution from any given flight takes place during take-off and landing cycles, the emissions produced per kilometre for each passenger on a domestic route are 70 percent higher than long haul flights - and six times higher than if the same journey was made by rail.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Four hours would have been doable

More could have been done, La Stampa explains:

“Flights between Paris and some of the country's most important cities will be banned, particularly between Paris and Lyon, Bordeaux and Nantes, but probably between Lyon and Marseilles and Paris and Rennes too. But this doesn't go far enough for everyone. The environmentalists would have liked to set the threshold at four hours. This would have meant that even flights between Paris and Marseille would have been affected by the ban, as the TGV takes little more than three hours to travel from the capital to the country's second largest city. The Citizens' Climate Convention had also called for four hours.”

Zeit Online (DE) /

Please change here

In the face of growing criticism of domestic flights in Germany too, Lufthansa and Deutsche Bahn plan to expand their cooperation. In future, all journeys to connect with long-haul flights are to be made by train. Zeit Online welcomes the plans:

“Every train journey produces on average of 85 percent less CO2 per person than a corresponding flight. If we want to achieve our climate targets, switching to train travel is indispensable. ... However, here in Germany we needn't go as far as in France. The airlines, with Lufthansa taking the lead, have pledged not to bring their domestic flights back up to previous levels, even if passenger numbers would allow it, for reasons of climate protection targets and also because they earn most of the money on long-haul routes. ... Now something is actually happening.”

Les Echos (FR) /

Start with fuels

Legislators should insist that technological developments in aircraft design be exploited, urges William Todts, executive director of the NGO Transport & Environnement, in Les Echos:

“It would be a good start to make zero-emission fuels mandatory by 2030 on short-haul flights - which, of course, are only allowed if there is no alternative by train. Subsequently, this target would have to be extended to allow Airbus to meet its commitment to offer hydrogen aircraft for medium-haul routes by 2035. ... No one will see the ban on short-haul flights as a change. Banning fossil fuel aircraft would be real progress.”