Air France scheduled jet: Fewer short-haul routes in future
Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP
France is world-famous for its TGV network, and the country's parliamentarians want to use it even more to protect the climate: the majority of them voted for a ban on domestic flights on routes that can be covered by train in less than two and a half hours.
Flights from Paris to Lyon or Bordeaux could soon be a thing of the past.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire had already expressed ideas in May 2020 when a decision was made on state aid for AirFrance-KLM.
The vote from the weekend picks up on these plans and wants to contribute to permanently reducing CO2 emissions - even if the air travel industry should pick up speed again after the global pandemic.
The ban is part of a broader climate law that aims to reduce French carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
State saves AirFrance-KLM with additional billions
Environmental activists, however, accuse President Emmanuel Macron of watering down earlier promises.
A citizens' climate forum set up by Macron to help shape climate policy had called for the abolition of flights on routes on which the train journey takes less than four hours.
That would amount to a ban on significantly more domestic flights and would also have affected flights to the country's second largest city, Marseille.
After the decision of the National Assembly, the bill now goes to the Senate before a third and final vote in the lower house.
The National Assembly vote came just days after the government announced it would participate in a € 4 billion recapitalization of Air France.
The state is again helping the airline, which was badly hit by the travel restrictions in the corona crisis, and more than doubled its stake in the company.
Aviation is likely to suffer from the pandemic for a long time
Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher rejected criticism from the aviation industry that a pandemic recovery is not the right time to ban domestic flights.
For them it is a contradiction to save the airline and at the same time to pass the climate law.
"We know that aviation causes carbon dioxide and that we have to reduce emissions because of climate change," she told the radio station Europe 1. "We must also support our companies and not let them fall by the wayside."
Even without the ban on domestic flights, aviation is likely to have to struggle with the consequences of the pandemic for a long time.
McKinsey analysts had forecast that air traffic would not return to pre-crisis levels before 2024.
In France, but also in Spain, rail companies are also trying to compete with low-cost airlines with competitive prices.
apr / Reuters