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We must end cut-price air fares, says French transport minister

‘Plane tickets should not cost less than train tickets,’ a leading passenger organisation states in response

France’s Transport Minister says he is going to push for the end of cut-price flights in Europe.

A minimum price for plane tickets in Europe could be introduced to “counter social and environmental dumping,” Clément Beaune told French magazine L’Obs on Wednesday (August 30).

Mr Beaune said discount plane tickets, such as from €10, should no longer be available when the world is trying to fight climate change and global warming.

He alluded to certain low-cost plane companies whose tickets do not cover the real cost of a flight when air travel emits significantly more greenhouse gases than travelling by train.

One-way flights from France costing as little as €10, with even less than a month’s notice, can be found for sale today. A quick search on price comparison websites found flights to at least 17 destinations for less than €20 from French airports, including to destinations in North Africa and Eastern Europe.

Mr Beaune added that he will take responsibility for ensuring that tax from “polluting activities” is invested in making transport greener and said he plans to submit his minimum price proposal to European Union colleagues in the next few days.

The French government has already said that it will increase the so-called ‘solidarity’ tax which applies to all flights from France and is used to invest in the railway network. 

Additional taxes on motorway companies and plane tickets are set to feature in France’s budget for 2024.

Read more: Tax on airline tickets to rise in France to fund train investments

‘Plane tickets should not cost less than train tickets’

France’s transport users association, the Fédération nationale des associations d'usagers des transports (FNAUT), responded to Mr Beaune’s comments in an interview with news website FranceInfo.

Bruno Gazeau, president of the FNAUT, said the economic railway, road and aeroplane models must “absolutely be made coherent”.

“If we want a policy which considers climate change, it is imperative that the various grants and tax relief systems given do not make planes systematically cheaper than the train,” he added.

Mr Gazeau said that if the French government plans to “increase the use of night trains in Europe… [they] must be given a chance” and therefore planes must not be given an advantage with “very low prices”.

Although France aimed to introduce at least a dozen overnight rail routes across the country by 2030, progress has been slow, and advocate groups such as Oui au train de nuit (Yes to night trains) say the government is lacking ambition.

Mr Gazeau also said he accepted that the minimum price of a plane ticket would vary depending on the destination but added “we can not have low-cost plane tickets costing less than a train ticket, otherwise the policy is incomprehensible”.

Read also

Is France really respecting the ban on short domestic flights?

Half price sale on train discount cards launches today in France

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