The European Commission has approved a section of France’s Loi Climat which will ban domestic flights in France when the journey can take less than two-and-a-half hours by train and when there are several return rail connections available each day.
This will mean, for example, that flights between Paris-Orly and Nantes, Lyon or Bordeaux will no longer be allowed to run when the new measure comes into force in the next few months.
The EU announced in December 2021 that it was to carry out an “in-depth” analysis of the project, which has been met with opposition by the Union des aéroports français and the European branch of the Airports Council International.
Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport has estimated that the end of the Paris-Orly route would result in a 16% drop in turnover, affecting the region’s economy.
The European Commission has stipulated that the measure will have to be reexamined after three years, and that it will also apply to connecting flights, while the original law included an exemption for this type of domestic journey.
Domestic flights with a rail alternative will also only be banned if there are several direct connections in each direction on offer each day.
If rail services get quicker, flights between Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Lyon and Rennes, as well as between Lyon and Marseille, could also be removed from timetables.
EU legislation states that a member state can limit or ban the right to operate air routes “if other modes of transport provide a satisfactory service,” but adds that this must not be “discriminatory,” must not “distort competition between airlines” and must not be “more restrictive than necessary”.
“The French ban on short-haul flights where quick train connections exist is a baby step, but it’s one in the right direction,” Thomas Gelin, Greenpeace’s EU climate campaigner, told The Telegraph.
French Green MEP Karima Delli said that the EU decision was a “victory” but that domestic flights should be banned when there is a four-hour rail option available.