The ban on short regional flights in France is already in force, a measure that the Spanish government suggested two years ago now as part of the Spain 2050 plan and that the United We Can group has recently rescued through a battery of amendments to the Draft Sustainable Mobility Law.
In the French case, flights that can be done by train in less than 2.5 hours are suppressed, a change already anticipated with the end of the connections between the Paris-Orly airport and the cities of Nantes, Bordeaux and Lyon. The norm that is already applied in France contemplates several exceptions and the only routes that would be affected at present would be the three mentioned. In fact, flights between Paris-Orly airport and Nantes, Bordeaux and Lyon stopped operating after the pandemic.
The ban was already provided for by the Climate and Resilience Law of August 22, 2021, but it was suspended while an investigation by the European Commission lasted after a complaint from the aviation sector. It has finally gotten through and, while its immediate effect is very limited, opens the door for more flights to be cut as rail connections and high speed improve. French Transport Minister Clément Beaune defended the measure as a boost and a "symbol" in the policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The airline industry, however, has once again questioned the initiative, which it considers "more gimmicky than effective", in the words of Javier Gándara, president of the Spanish airline association ALA. For its part, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), through its director general, Willie Walsh, has called it "completely absurd." “It is useless”, they add. Walsh insists that if all routes of less than 500 kilometers in Europe were eliminated, 24% of flights would be suppressed, but, on the other hand, "CO2 emissions would fall by only 3.84%," according to Eurocontrol.
The European airline association A4E also regretted that banning these trips "will only have minimal effects" on CO2 emissions, and at the same time called for "real and significant solutions" to the problem of emissions, alluding to the production of alternative fuels, now lower minima, and more efficient aircraft.
Spanish airlines with significant operations in France will not be affected by the entry into force of the ban. From the airline Vueling, which has its second market in France after Spain, they confirm that they currently do not cover any route impacted by the measure. Volotea, with a strong presence in the French country, explains that it does not operate any flight that can be covered by a four-hour train journey. In addition, more than 90% of its flights cover journeys that, if done by train, would take more than six hours. Javier Gándara, from ALA, stresses that, if applied in Spain, this ban would barely reduce emissions in commercial aviation by 0.9%, as stated in a recent study by the College of Aeronautical Engineers. "On the other hand, it would have a significant impact on passengers," adds Gándara, because, unlike France, high-speed rail does not yet reach Spanish airports.
From ALA they insist on following another roadmap: in the short term promote the production of sustainable fuels (SAF) and in the medium and long term develop technology such as hydrogen. The airline industry has recently formed an alliance "for the sustainability of the sector" in which they try to address this problem. The recommendation to prohibit short flights that the Spanish Government included in the 2050 Strategy caused a stir in the sector. When the Executive presented the project in 2021, the airlines turned against it. The ALA airline association said then that the initiative would achieve a "marginal" reduction, with only four routes affected. The Podemos amendment goes further and proposes to suppress alternative train flights of up to four hours.