The French government announced that it hopes to bring in a minimum price for airline tickets to eliminate the possibility of low-cost flights. The French transport minister, Clément Beaune, said in an interview with business magazine Obs that it was no longer feasible in a time of environmental crisis to buy tickets that cost just $10.
Beaune was clear that the French government is hoping this will be an EU-wide scheme to be brought in across the bloc.
It’s a promising start for French environmentalists at the return to work of the French government after the summer holidays—after proposing $110 million of investment in train infrastructure in the upcoming budget from an increase in airline taxes, there are plans to restart the night train from Paris to Berlin, run by ÖBB three times per week from December onwards at a starting cost of just $29.
What’s more, after introducing a law that bans short-haul flights where a train route of under 2.5 hours already exists, the French government is also looking to replicate a very successful scheme in Germany that allows unlimited travel on any public transport for around $50 per month, including intercity trains.
Beaune has said that the EU is also considering increasing the tax on private jets, many of which can be found in the skies over France on their way down to the Mediterranean. The EU is also currently discussing a proposed increase on aviation tax in its need to reach substantial environmental targets for carbon emissions.
Whilst the EU is notoriously slow to bring in new rules (it needs approval from all member states, plus those in the wider Schengen area, if possible) it has shown support for such schemes. When France introduced the law banning short-haul flights, many airlines appealed, stating that the ban effectively amounted to illegal state support for the rail sector and the case went to the European court. The judges, however, ruled that the climate crisis fell under the term of exceptional circumstances under which such schemes are valid.
Many believe that the French ban on short-haul flights is a test case for further bans in other EU countries—the region has been heavily pushing rail travel in recent years, with many new rail startups offering new train routes across Europe.
Environmentalists argue that more must be done, notably to reduce the group of frequent fliers, who represent a minority of travelers but are responsible for more carbon emissions than others. The climate campaign group, Possible, states that in France, half of all flights are taken by just 2% of people. In the U.K., 15% of travelers take 70% of flights and 8% of the Dutch take 42%. Environmentalists say that an easy fix would be a frequent flyer tax that would reduce air travel for this group but not hinder those people that travel infrequently by air.
Recent Greenpeace research into the cost of flights and trains across Europe found that train travel is often anywhere between two times and four times the cost of flying. Examining prices across 112 routes in Europe, they found that flights were generally cheaper on seven out of ten of the routes (79 out of the 112).