The days of short-haul flights in Europe are numbered, at least in France. On Friday the European Commission gave the go ahead for France to prevent flights between Paris Orly airport and Nantes, Lyon, and Bordeaux.
If, after three years, the concept is judged successful then more flight routes will be banned.
As part of the country’s Climate Law, France wants to abolish flights between cities that are linked by a train journey of less than two and a half hours. New high-speed rail lines—part of the EU’s TEN-T project—will make many short-haul flights redundant across Europe, believe planners and politicians.
Currently it takes more than seven hours to travel by train from Milan in Italy to Paris but with the opening of the 36-mile-long Mont Cenis Base Tunnel, currently being constructed under the Savoy Alps, this journey time will be halved.
According to EU statistics, 17 of the 20 busiest air routes in Europe cover distances of less than 434 miles, the sort of distances where intercity trains can offer faster, cleaner and more sustainable journeys.
When, in 2021, French lawmakers first proposed to abolish flights to three cities from Orly airport the plans were contested by the Union of French Airports as well as the European branch of the Airports Council International. This led to an investigation by the European Commission which concluded the plans were acceptable.
“This is a major step forward and I am proud that France is a pioneer in this area,” France’s Transport Minister Clément Beaune said in a statement.
An almost complete ban on short haul flights was originally proposed by France’s Citizens’ Convention on Climate, a citizens’ assembly tasked with making proposals for reducing the country’s carbon emissions.
Green campaigners welcomed the European Commission’s approval for the ban but said this was merely the first step and that more radical measures need to be imposed to wean travellers off climate-harming short haul flights. The ban will take some months to be enforced.