Could Spain Follow France With A Domestic Flight Ban?

Spain could be following France’s steps to ban short-haul domestic flights as a way to minimize the airline industry’s carbon emissions in the country. Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, showcased this idea today as part of its Spain 2050 project. Let’s investigate further.

Spain could ban domestic flights which are under 2.5 hours by train. Photo: Iberia

What is Spain proposing?

Spain’s Government published today the project under which it plans to grow over the next three decades. Among its many objectives, it includes the idea of becoming carbon neutral, sustainable, and a resilient country against climate change.

To achieve this, Spain outlined eleven pillars; the fifth one impacts the airline industry directly. The objective is “to diminish the airline industry impact on the climate.” To do it, the Spanish authorities have two proposals. One is to introduce frequent flyer taxes or to establish taxes depending on the distance traveled.

As Mikel Alcazar, a Spanish aviation journalist, said, the shorter the flight, the higher the tax.

The second proposal is a copy-paste from the French initiative. It reads,

“Likewise, we recommend banning flights on segments which could be done by train in less than 2.5 hours.”

Iberia Barcelona
This is Barcelona’s airport. If the Spain 2050 project pans out, we could see every flight to Madrid scrapped. Photo: Iberia.

Which routes could be axed?

In France, only a handful of routes are impacted by the proposal. For example, the flights between Paris-Orly and Nantes, Lyon, and Bordeaux are in the hot spot.

Likewise, not many routes may be at risk in Spain. Obviously, none of the routes to the Balearic Islands (Ibiza, Mallorca, and those classic summer destinations) could be axed.

Mikel Alcazar, the host of the Spanish Aerovia Podcast, says three important routes may disappear if this proposal goes forward. Madrid-Valencia and Madrid-Alicante would definitely be stopped, as they’re under the 2.5 hours threshold.

The other one is one of Europe’s crown jewels, Madrid-Barcelona. The rail transport state-owned company, Renfe, publishes on its website that the Madrid-Barcelona route is exactly 2.5 hours long.

IAG Air Europa
Air Europa, Iberia, and Vueling offer the Madrid-Barcelona route. Photo: Getty Images

How important is the Madrid-Barcelona route?

In a nutshell, very. In May 2019, three airlines offered 1,424 monthly flights between Madrid Barajas International Airport and Barcelona’s International Airport. These carriers were Iberia, Air Europa, and Vueling, according to Cirium’s database.

In 2019, 2.57 million passengers flew between both cities, the most important route for Madrid’s airport, according to Spain’s airport operator, Aena.

So far, in 2021, it has had 205,297 passengers and is still a major domestic route for Spain.

We reached out to Iberia and Vueling for comment on this subject. So far, we haven’t received an answer, but we’ll keep you updated if that changes.

While Spain 2050 is far from a done deal, it will be fascinating to see how it develops in the coming months. Most likely, the Spanish airline industry will comment on the subject in the next few days.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Which routes wouldn’t be scratched?

Looking at Madrid’s top ten domestic routes, only Madrid-Barcelona is potentially impacted. This happens for two reasons: either the destination is on an island, like Mallorca or the Canary Islands, or Renfe’s routes take too long.

For example, the routes Madrid-Sevilla and Madrid-Malaga would be safe by minutes. According to Renfe’s website, the train segment for the first route is two hours 38 minutes. Malaga’s route is even shorter, two hours and 33 minutes. They barely escape the Spain 2050‘s threshold.

Do you think Spain should ban every domestic flight under 2.5 hours? Other countries should follow? Let us know in the comments.