The ban on short regional flights in France is already in place. This is a measure that the Spanish Government already suggested two years ago as part of the Spain 2050 plan and that the Unides Podemos group has recently rescued through a battery of amendments to the Sustainable Mobility bill .
In the French case, flights that can be made by train in less than 2.5 hours are canceled, a change already anticipated regarding the connections between Paris-Orly airport and the cities of Nantes, Bordeaux and Lyon . The rule, which is already applied in France, foresees several exceptions, and currently the only routes that would be affected 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 foreseen by the Climate and Resilience law of August 22, 2021, but it was suspended while an investigation by the European Commission took place following a complaint from the aviation sector. It has finally gone ahead and, although its immediate effect is very limited, it opens the door for more flights to be canceled as rail connections and high speed improve. The French Minister of Transport, Clément Beaune, defended this 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's useless", they conclude. Walsh insists that if all routes of less than 500 kilometers in Europe were to be eliminated, 24% of flights would be eliminated, but, on the other hand, “CO2 emissions would fall by only 3.84%”, according to a Eurocontrol report.
The European airline union A4E also lamented that banning these trips "will only have minimal effects" on CO2 emissions, and called for "real and meaningful solutions" to the emissions problem, alluding to the production of alternative fuels, now below minimums, 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 France as its second market after Spain, they confirm that they do not currently cover any routes affected by the measure. Volotea, with a strong presence in the Galician country, explains that it does not operate any flights that can be covered by a four-hour train journey. In addition, more than 90% of their flights cover journeys that, if made by train, require more than six hours. Javier Gándara, of ALA, emphasizes that, if the measure is applied in Spain, this ban would barely reduce commercial aviation emissions by 0.9%, as shown 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 in France, high-speed rail does not yet reach Spanish airports. From ALA they insist on following another roadmap: in the short term to promote the production of sustainable fuels (SAF) and in the medium and long term to develop technology such as hydrogen. The airline industry has recently formed an alliance "for the sustainability of the sector" in which they are trying to address this problem. The recommendation to ban short flights that the Spanish Government included in the 2050 Strategy caused a great stir in the sector. When the Executive presented the project in 2021, the airlines ruled against it. The airline association ALA said at the time that the initiative would achieve a "marginal" reduction, with only four routes affected. Podemos' amendment goes further and proposes to abolish flights with alternative trains of up to four hours.