French Lawmakers Ban Short Domestic Flights, But…

Filed Under: Air France/KLM

French lawmakers have just voted to ban short domestic flights. This sounds drastic, but the practical implications are fairly limited.

France’s ban on domestic flights

Last night, French lawmakers voted to ban domestic flight routes that can be covered by train in under 2hr30min. This is an effort by the government to lower carbon emissions from air travel. This vote was made by the National Assembly, but there will be two more sets of votes before this is formally approved.

This vote came shortly after it was announced that the French government would more than double its stake in Air France-KLM, which is coming with some significant provisions.

This latest bill is part of an overall effort by the country to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030, bringing them back down to 1990 levels.

As France’s Industry Minister, Agnes Pannier-Runacher, described this update:

“We know that aviation is a contributor of carbon dioxide and that because of climate change we must reduce emissions. Equally, we must support our companies and not let them fall by the wayside.”

France has been considering all kinds of measures to reduce emissions from aviation. For example, last September I wrote about how the country was considering adding the world’s highest aviation eco-tax, which could be 400 EUR one-way for long haul business class flights.

Other ideas under consideration included banning flights where there are train connections of less than four hours, and even banning the construction of new airports and expansion of existing airports.

France was considering the world’s highest aviation eco-tax

How many routes are impacted by this?

This new measure might sound drastic, but how many flight routes are actually potentially impacted by this legislation? Of the 108 pre-coronavirus domestic routes in France, this potentially impacts… five routes. Yep, just five.

This includes the following (flights from Paris Charles de Gaulle aren’t impacted):

  • Paris Orly to Bordeaux
  • Paris Orly to Lyon
  • Paris Orly to Nantes
  • Paris Orly to Rennes
  • Lyon to Marseille

So yeah, this would potentially ban ~4.6% of domestic flight routes. Admittedly these are probably some of the more high frequency routes, so it probably represents more than 4.6% of total domestic capacity, but still. I’d hardly call this revolutionary.

It’s primarily routes out of Paris Orly that are impacted

Bottom line

France is planning on banning domestic flights in markets that could be covered by trains in under 2hr30min. This is part of a larger plan to reduce emissions in the country, and comes days after the government increased its stake in Air France-KLM.

If this new law is finalized, it would impact just five of the 100+ domestic routes in France, so the implications wouldn’t be that huge. At least it won’t have nearly as bad of an impact on the French aviation industry as the introduction of the world’s highest aviation tax, for example.

What do you make of France planning on banning short haul domestic flights?

  1. What’s most important is that, as far as I know, transit PAX are not impacted. Which means that you can still fly those routes if you continue on a connecting flight.

  2. Sorry but it´s whistling in the dark when you´re saying it´s hardly revolutionary – and you know it. That´s going to be a piecemeal approach and eventually things will get quite ugly on that front – not only in France.

  3. The great incrementalism of crisis as a moniker for government overreach continues…. perhaps the 5th Republic isn’t long for this world (Le Pen may win the next general election). The one thing France did right, 70%+ nuclear power for domestic needs, better than Joe’s “electric trains powered by coal and nat gas power plants thats 100 miles away” approach for trains no one will ever take. Lucky, this is tremendously revolutionary, and sets a precedent (in France), that a government can set a goal post with a crisis and massively restrict a business as a result, all while assuming more government debt to settle the missed revenue… I’m sure this will work our great in the long run. How would this fly in Delta and the like were forced to end the Shuttle and vector everyone to Amtrak… similar distances.

  4. @PM

    You know countries have tens of millions of people and can do more than 1 thing at a time right?

  5. At least they (Europe) have a viable rail system to fall back on! In California, we have been talking about a rail system since after decades of advocacy for building a high speed rail system

    – San Diego through Inland Empire (Riverside, San Bernardino, etc.) to Los Angeles
    – Anaheim through Los Angeles and the Central Valley to San Francisco.
    – Burbank to San Jose.
    – San Francisco to Sacramento.

    So far (25 years later) nothing to show for and the projected cost more than doubled, the state has been unable to attract investors without promising subsidies, changes in the project, such as merging it with regional commuter rail, make the 2:40 travel time (LA to SF) impossible, and public sentiment has turned against it. in fact the detractors (big money interests and anti-tax groups) were successful in spreading a misnomer about the Central Valley portion as, “the train to nowhere”!

  6. @Will
    Yes, nuclear energy is great! However France and Belgium have the oldest, worst maintained and most unsafe nuclear power plants in Europe.
    Meanwhile Germany with the newest, safest ones is shutting them down earlier, the French and Belgium ones in turn will run 10-15+ years longer.
    Absolute dumb decisions, especially if you consider that the French and Belgium ones are literally 10 meters behind the German border.

  7. Honestly it’s so much easier to go by train between those cities. It makes no sense to take a plane there, given the efficient and super fast bullet train network and the fact that you can arrive to the train station just 10 minutes prior.

    That being said, it won’t impact flights with a connection (not sure how/what that means but I think that they essentially just keep the CDG traffic to/from these cities for international connections).

  8. @Max- agreed on all fronts. France led the way with the willingness to construct them- but has certainly (and predictably) failed when it comes to reinvestment (instead spending French treasure on a whole host of ‘smart’ programs and obligations). Couldn’t agree more on Germany either- that’s a great point, would be like the U.S. building 1/2 a dam at Niagara…. the EU is quickly booming a farce
    Another point- allowing connections shows this is just more governmental silliness- jets still fly, carbon gets burned, just French citizens get trolled by their government by not being given freedom of choice in a competitive marketplace

  9. @ Danilo – agreed. This is terrible news for those of us who like to fly, since more countries will follow and “banned distances” will increase.

  10. “That being said, it won’t impact flights with a connection (not sure how/what that means but I think that they essentially just keep the CDG traffic to/from these cities for international connections).” If this is the case then I don’t see any issue with this. It is one thing if a person is already in paris with access to a train station. Heck in those situations I often select the train route instead of the airport because it is just easier. It is quite another if someone is coming through paris on an international connection and they are just trying to make an onward connection to one of these destinations.

  11. Having spent a lot of time in France, I assure that choosing short haul flights over the TGV (bullet train) is ridiculous. First of all, the French train system has regular sales on fares so, if you watch carefully, you can get to your destination at a very low price. Secondly, if you have ever tried to make a flight while staying at a central Paris location, you know you have to start out at least 4 hours before take off. Transportation to and from the airport is costly unless you want to take the train/metro to Gare de Nord (not recommended for so many reasons). Traffic jams and long security lines create a huge risk of missing your flight. Train stations are in the center of town which—if not walkable—is a reasonable metro or subway ride (Aix-en-Provence is an exception). Upon arrival there is little in the way of security hoops to jump through. Seats are comfortable and cancellations or delays are rare.

  12. @Jumpseatflyer

    No those forbiden flights were to/from Paris Orly airport not CDG airport.

    They have been already cancelled for ages now since the beginning of covid and all were only operated by Air France only with no competitor.

  13. “Admittedly these are probably some of the more high frequency routes”

    Not really. All routes were only three daily rotations in normal times.

    Except for La Navette to/from BOD, where ten daily (on weeks days) frequencies were operated.

    It is more La Navette to Toulouse (with 26 daily flights on normal times, only 3 right now), La Navette to Nice (in the past around 14 daily flights) and La Navette to marseille (12 flights in the past) that had more frequencies.

  14. Biden should do that by EO here, except expand the range to 3,000 miles. Just make sure all the politicians are away in recess first.

  15. The stupidity of this decision is just plain obvious.

    There are passengers transiting to New-York (from orly) or to the french overseas services, from Rennes, Nantes, Bordeaux and Lyon.
    Super easy in that case to have your luggage taken in charge at your origin.

    Now Air France has to paid to all of them a taxi from the railways station Massy-Palaiseau to Orly airport.

    Talk about less pollution when you use a car….

    And the non confort of a break of your journey.

  16. Admittedly, this makes way more sense than a 400 EUR tax on long haul business class fares. It’s not like you can take a train across the Atlantic, and I’m sure Zoom can be enough of a ‘carrot’ to discourage excessive business travel.

    France is the size of Texas, and this is like banning WN’s original ‘triangle’ route in Texas. It’s just that there is the TGV in France to pick up the slack.

  17. If this exact law were implemented in the US, I believe the only flights impacted would be Philadelphia to Washington DC.

  18. Actual emissions savings from these particular flights will be negligible, but it’s a nice shot across the bow to airlines and especially aircraft manufacturers to address aviation’s pretty astounding emissions on a per-passenger bases in a serious way.

    Airbus seems to be taking this seriously, Boeing is screwing around at the edges, hopefully they get their projects together soon but given the catastrophically poor decision making that went into how Boeing developed the 737-MAX, meh, wouldn’t hold my breath…

  19. Torturing people for Carbon Crap…crazy and the people will put up with it!!! Socialism…I hope KLM and AF are somewhat concerned

  20. Bob

    Transit passengers are unaffected by this only O&D between the two airports. In anycase most transit traffic will be via CDG which isn’t affected by this law.

    Once the O&D traffic is cleared off these routes then they can consolidate the flights down to fewer a day. That is what will reduce the emissions.

  21. @dee AF and KL definitely understand socialism since they were both once state-owned carriers and will now have huge French government investment going forward into the AFKL. They sort of love socialism.

  22. Everyone with their knickers in a twist here about government overreach/destroying economies…have any of you been to France? In my 4 years living in Paris, I never flew domestically, nor did I know anyone who did – it just never made sense financially, nor did it ever make sense in terms of efficiency/time. SNCF employs tons of people, as does the green sector in France…Americans on the Right are just too afraid to give either one a try and admit that maybe, just maybe, they’re wrong about investing (or rather, not investing) in infrastructure and the environment.

  23. The only travelers really affected are the ones that connected before in ORY on domestic itineraries.

    Or people traveling on days with SNCF strikes/breakdowns.

  24. @ralph4878 Exactly. Americans on the right are much more interested in making the planet a moonscape for their grandchildren so they can get all the cash now …

  25. how about addressing the biggest contributor to global warming and climate change. Breeding. Stop having so many kids, or any kids for that matter. Creating more resource sucking humans willingly is the worst decision anyone can make when it comes to combatting climate change. Let France start taxing new births with an annual levy each year on each little human along with its Eco Tax. At least then they would be consistent

  26. It does kind of make sense though, if the alternative is good enough.

    Going from Tokyo to Osaka there is no way I’d fly. I’ll jump on the Shinkansen. Departures less than 10 minutes apart most of the day, I can arrive at the station 5 minutes before departure and still make it, more space than most planes, total travel time beats the plane. The last one of course depends a bit on your specific start and end point.

    What’s not to like about the train?

  27. This is an authoritarian move by a metropolitan elite.
    If one lives in a provincial city, the benefit of checking in for a short domestic flight locally can be significant, versus having to haul luggage into the capital, change transport, and get out to the airport. It is even more obvious on the way home – if arriving off a long-haul flight into Paris (or London, Frankfurt, etc.), one is already often tired and not at one’s best. Getting onto a short flight home, picking the bags up there, having to navigate the metro and so on, is much less straightforward than getting to one’s home airport.
    If governments want to discourage flying for environmental reasons, and have a mandate to do so, there are many tools at their disposal – an outright ban is the bluntest.

  28. They should ban all private flights. No exception for any politician and no exception for how rich you are……oh wait no they wont do that because Libs like to focus the pain on the middle to low class.

  29. @Ben Dover obviously didn’t read the article or you’d know that connections aren’t being banned. What’s the point of commenting if you’re not gonna spend the time to read the actual article?

  30. There is an interesting possibility here. France is very Paris-centric. A train from Paris to Lyon takes 2.5 hours. That is fast, indeed. The flip-side is getting to Paris from the suburbs. Personal experience is that takes 1.5 hours. Add another 1.5 hours for the Lyon train station to suburbs. Now your trip at 5.5 hours. I can take a car from the Paris suburbs to the Lyon suburbs in the same amount of time. If the car has just two or more persons in it, the cost is less than the train.

    So, what does this mean? It means that this law is not going to really change the way people travel within France. However, it may indeed reduce Paris as a hub for international air travel. Of course, that won’t kill CDG or ORY. It will not do much for Lyon and even less for Marseille. However, the airports at Rennes, Nantes and Bordeaux will probably be winners. Also, non-French flagged European carriers like BA, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Lufthansa and Finnair could be tempted to pick up international travellers from these airports and fly them through their networks.

    Now, to shine some light on this crazy law, France will not let it happen. The labor costs of running a French airline are higher than those of non-French ones. French ecologists have tried to milk the airlines for money to use in non-aviation areas. This “wonderfully” stupid idea killed XL Airways. France is not going to let non-French airlines get their hands on French international travellers.

  31. Nice headline. Has any other country of size followed the French model on anything in 70 years? Declining empire forever struggles for relevance. At least the birds are in the laugh this time.

  32. @Bob, I did read it but missed that, thanks.
    So if connections aren’t banned the flights will still fly, which undermines much of the supposed environmental benefit.

  33. @Eric and @Ralph4878

    Banning domestic travel while allowing for international connections will likely increase the per-passenger carbon output of these flights. Way to go!

    If you are so concerned about carbon pollution and anthropogenic climate change, why not advocate for banning meat? Carbon output by animal husbandry dwarfs that of air travel many times over. Fat people also take more fuel to haul in the air than skinny ones. Why not a fat passenger surcharge? Most of the health care costs in the US are due to old people very close to death or fat folx. The government should ban oldies and fatties, don’t you think? What problem can’t be solved with a law from our wise legislators and executives? Ban whiteness. Voila! A diverse racial wonderland can be ours with the wave of a pen.

  34. @Kalboz The biggest obstacle CAHSR faces is NOT big money interests and anti-tax groups as you have suggested; it is geography. Specifically the mountain ranges that separate the Central Valley with LA and SF in both ends, particularly in the south.

    HSR works best over relatively flat terrain with minimal curves (turning radius over 3 miles). The mountain ranges between Central Valley and LA Basin provides neither. To build a rail connection optimized for HSR over mountain ranges would require a lot of tunnel boring connected by massive viaducts. It is cost prohibitive to do either. On the other hand, a cost effective way to build a rail connection over mountain ranges would result in a lot of twists and turns and elevation changes, all of which are prohibitive for HSR operation. It is simple law of physics that political will cannot overcome.

    Similar challenges exist between the Bay Area and the Central Valley though the terrain is not as mountainous (Pacheco Pass is just 1400 ft compared to Tehachapi Pass around 3800 ft).

    There is a reason why construction broke ground in Central Valley, because the terrain is most suitable for relatively low cost HSR construction. It’s almost like they are trying to commit enough money to build the first phase to the point it will be too big to abandon.

    I’m not against HSR, but western United States is simply not suited for the HSR model to make economic sense. HSR works best between city pairs with around 2-3 hours travel time (or roughly 300-400 miles apart). In the western United States, these city pairs are few and far between, and are usually separated by mountain ranges (Sierra Nevada and the Rockies).

    Public sentiment has turned against CAHSR because people who think with logic and not emotions ultimately realize the project was sold with false pretenses and unrealistic cost projections.

  35. Austria quasi did the same thing last year, banning Austrian (the only airline offering domestic flights) between Vienna and Salzburg and Linz, which have higher, but not high-speed, rail. I believe this was a condition in a bailout package.

  36. There are too many negative comments on France, while nobody noticed that actually, France is totally taking precedence from similarly sized and similar population South Korea, which has virtually a mirror set up.

    JUST LIKE KOREA, AIRFRANCE will operate domestic flights connecting these cities for connecting passengers only. More importantly, it prevents LCCs from trying to compete and duplicating services out of CDG. ORY like GMP, will take more of a domestic intercontinental role.

    The failure of USA to develop high-speed rail, is its own bigotry and actual attitude towards foreign technology developed by “partners”, and the naivity of the US believing that it can solve problems by THROWING MONEY at the problem.

    I read a Mainland China news analysis on USA transportation.

    They forecast that from 2028, LaGuardia flights needed to somehow be flown by all widebodies of at least 787 or A350 size, flying so frequent to Boston and Dulles that the latter two will effectively become domestic only. They also expect a Haneda airport situation over in the West Coast out of LAX to SFO, SJC and SEA, if no serious effort is taken to develop a mass transit network for the US to replace the Interstates.

    They figured that honestly speaking, there’s absolutely no incentive for non-frequent flyer elites to fly, if they had a choice of high-speed rail or planes. You just needed to look at the popularity of America’s ULCCs and LCCs.

    But the analysis admitted that if the US didn’t take the lead, then others will. It also believed, that it would be critical for HSR to be connected and function as terminals at some airports. It said that America’s university undergrads, highschool kids, college kids, are seriously discussing the issue of high-speed network because they’re accutely aware that buying a car is not going to be ideal or possible, when they graduate.

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