An Air France plane at Roissy airport in Paris.CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON / EFE
The French National Assembly this weekend has taken the first step to leave domestic flights behind on routes that can be covered in less than two and a half hours by train.
The initiative, which on Saturday passed the first of the three votes necessary for its final approval, comes just as the French Government tries to put a stop to greenhouse gas emissions caused by the airline industry and in the midst of a crisis in the sector, one one of those hardest hit by the pandemic.
Paradoxically, the crisis derived from the pandemic has made the French State the main shareholder of Air France - which covers most of these routes - after injecting 4,000 million euros for its urgent recapitalization.
This movement, forced by the circumstances, has more than doubled the public presence in the shareholders of the company.
The French Minister of Industry, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, has rejected criticism from the airline industry, who argue that in the midst of a post-pandemic recovery it is not the best time to ban most domestic flights.
And he has affirmed not to observe any contradiction between the measure and the rescue of the flag airline.
"We know that aviation increases carbon dioxide [in the atmosphere] and climate change forces us to cut our emissions," said Pannier-Runacher in statements to radio station Europe 1. "In the same way, we must support to our companies and not let them fall ”.
According to the calculations of the consulting firm McKinsey, global air traffic will not return to pre-crisis levels until, at the earliest, 2024.
The measure is part of a bill that seeks to cut emissions by 40% in 2030, so that they return to 1990 levels. However, several groups of environmental activists accuse President Emmanuel Macron of having watered down the initial plan , dropping some promises made at first.
In his opinion, the project falls short and should include the prohibition of all domestic air routes that can be traveled by train in less than four hours and not just in two and a half hours.
The legislative journey of the ban on domestic flights in France is by no means the end of its journey: there is still one more vote in the Senate and a final vote in the Lower House.