France Moves Closer To Barring Short-Haul Domestic Flights

Late Saturday, French lawmakers voted in favor of legislation that will ban domestic flight services that trains are able to cover in less than two-and-a-half hours. This initial vote on the policy comes on the heels of a four billion euro ($4.76 billion) lifeline from the government, which will also see it give up some slots at Paris-Orly.

Air France HOP E170 Departing Frankfurt
Air France Hop – the carrier’s domestic brand, may see its operations shrink in the future. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

The ban on these short domestic flights is not yet approved, however, as the bill must survive two more rounds of voting- one in the senate and the other in the lower house.

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Cutting French carbon emissions

Intending to cut French carbon emissions, members of France’s National Assembly voted to abolish domestic flight routes that are otherwise achievable with a two-and-a-half-hour train journey.

Reuters points out that the vote comes days after the government committed to pouring billions more into its national carrier, Air France. This is due to ongoing travel restrictions and the resulting downturn of the aviation sector caused by the global health crisis.

The French government has imposed conditions on financial aid to the major carrier, with the abolition of shorter domestic flights one of the key points.

France Moves Closer To Barring Short-Haul Domestic Flights
The threshold for the domestic flight ban is a 2.5-hour train journey. However, some activists are calling for this to be raised to four hours. Photo: Mathieu Costecalde via Wikimedia Commons

What routes would be affected?

Europe1 notes that, in practice, the policy would end flights between Paris-Orly and Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux as these connections can be made by train. Routes that are also at risk include Paris-Rennes and Lyon-Marseille.

The French outlet notes, however, that there is one striking exception: Connecting flights for onward travel. This is particularly the case when it comes to transiting through Paris Charles de Gaulle for onward journeys further abroad.

France Moves Closer To Barring Short-Haul Domestic Flights
A major exception will allow connecting flights to Charles de Gaulle for onward travel. Photo:

The finer details have yet to be worked out, but we would imagine that Air France could ‘enforce’ this by only making the flights available only as part of a larger itinerary/booking, which involves connecting travel, onward to another destination.

Demands for a more stringent threshold

Some groups argue that the two-and-a-half-hour limit doesn’t go far enough. Groups like UFC-Que Choisir and the Citizen’s Climate Convention are calling for an abolition of flights with an alternative train journey of fewer than four hours. Activists say that the bill up for vote with its current threshold does little in the way of real change.

Translated from French, consumer group UFC-Que Choisir states the following:

Only five lines remain affected by the measure, representing 12% of passengers who took an internal metropolitan flight, against 18 lines at the four-hour threshold (30% of passengers)”

France Moves Closer To Barring Short-Haul Domestic Flights
The bill has yet to fully pass as it faces two more rounds of voting. Photo: BriYYZ via Wikimedia Commons 

The vote on this bill in France’s National Assembly was only the first of three rounds. The bill will next go to the Senate and will then be followed by a third and final vote in the lower house.

What do you think of this policy? Does it go far enough to achieve the goals intended? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.