France legally bans select short-haul flights —so should other countries follow?


The French ban on short haul flights is being called a world first by the government. Environmentalists think it’s a good start but should go further. 

France has passed the bill to ban short-haul flights through parliament where a train alternative of 2.5 hours or less exists—something that has been in place, practically speaking, for a while. However, while France declared its legal ban a world first—for environmentalists, the law has been watered down far too much.

The ban was part of a 2020 agreement, mid-pandemic, to bail out the national carrier Air France, when passengers couldn’t fly and those who could travel started taking the train. In return for government money, the airline agreed to stop some short-haul routes to meet environmental targets.

The reason why it has only recently become law is that airlines asked the European Commission to investigate if it was legal and the result is yes.

Surprisingly for such a ban, there are lots of reasons as to why environmentalists are not the happiest they could be:

  • the ban was originally put forward by a Citizen’s Convention that suggested all flights should be banned if there is a 6-hour train journey available, which would have banned more flights. The Convention was convened by President Macron after the Yellow Vest ‘Gilet Jaune’ protests against social inequality.
  • at 2.5 hours, this cut-off point is just less than the train time to one of France’s main cities on the Mediterranean, Marseille. It follow that if the ban had been for 3 hour-train journeys, a lot more plane journeys would have been replaced by trains.
  • planes traveling between Marseille and Lyon (both in the south and just under 2 hours apart by train) are exempt from the ban, as are flights between Rennes and Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. The rules stipulate that train timetables must be frequent enough to allow travelers to spend 8 hours in the destination and be able to travel there and back in a single day.
  • connecting flights from outside France are unaffected.
  • and the ban doesn’t cover private jets, something that environmentalists are campaigning heavily for in France. A lot of private jet journeys are taken in the country—the most frequent private jet trip in 2022 was between Paris and Nice, consuming four times more carbon per person than a commercial flight and 800 times more than the train, according to Le Monde.

That being said, the bill is historic as it completely rules out the chance for airlines to run services between several of France’s large cities—Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux—and Paris, as the bill dictates that no airlines are allowed to start a new business to fill the void.

Greenpeace France called the bill insufficient but nonetheless a baby step in the right direction. It is now calling on the EU to push for bans in other countries to help solve the climate crisis and the French government plans to add more routes to the ban when it is reviewed in 3 years.

While the bill doesn’t cover private jets, the French government is talking about raising charges on private jets from 2024. Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport recently announced that private jets would no longer be welcome under new environmental plans for the area.

This story was first published on and all figures are in USD.

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