Flight Bans In Europe — France Opened the Pandora’s Box
In April 2019, the news about France banning short-haul flights where passengers can take the train shocked the European aviation industry. Although the discussion about short-haul flight bans wasn’t new, nobody expected to turn that into reality.
Although the French bill has to pass the Senate, followed by a final vote in the lower house, there is no doubt that the ban will come. Moreover, the flight ban is part of the agreement between the French government and Air France about further financing to help the French flag carrier get through the Corona pandemic. Once the bill passed the institutions, it would be the end for regional flights between Paris’s Orly airport and cities like Nantes and Bordeaux.
Austria already made similar steps
However, France wasn’t the first European country that go down this road. By mid-2020, Austrian Airlines stopped its Vienna-Salzburg route and replaced it with an additional train service to receive government money.
62% support an EU short-haul flight ban
It seems like France and Austria were just the beginning of the European movement to make short-haul flights history. In a European Investment Bank (EIB) survey, 62% of respondents support an EU-wide ban of short-haul flights. Moreover, during the last weeks, the discussion heated up in some European countries.
Germany’s Greens’ Leader And Candidate For Chancellor Stresses a Short-Haul Flight Ban
In May 2021, Ms. Baerbock, co-leader of the Greens and a strong candidate for chancellor in September 2021, brought the topic back to the political agenda.
In an interview with a German newspaper, Ms. Baerbock talked about measures to create attractive alternatives to short-haul flights — and steps to make short-haul flights unattractive. In Ms. Baerbock’s words, that does not only account for domestic but also for short-haul leisure trips.
Although she did not use the word “ban,” the direction seems very clear: Adding taxes, reducing subventions on flights, and simultaneously improving the rail offer.
Domestic Travel Accounts for 0.28% of Germany’s CO2 Emissions
At that point, it probably makes sense to take a look at facts and figures. Out of 800 million tons of CO2 Germany produces annually, domestic flights account for 0.28%. Moreover, the often mentioned ultra-short-haul flights, such as Frankfurt-Stuttgart or Berlin-Hamburg, only account for a fraction of the 0.28%.
Lufthansa Stays Relaxed
Despite the heated discussion, Lufthansa, as Germany’s largest airline, looks very relaxed. Lufthansa’s CEO, Mr. Spohr, said in an official statement” “or those of you who have been following the decision of this French Government if that same ruling would have been adapted to Germany, which means no domestic flight unless there are connecting passengers on board, and unless it takes more than two and a half hours to replace that flights by train, only one domestic route in Germany would’ve been stopped, which is Dusseldorf – Stuttgart.”
Spain is Likely to Follow France
Somehow contrary to Germany, it looks that Spain is going to follow the French approach quite fast. Mid-May 2021, the Spanish government published a project to becoming carbon neutral. Besides many other measures, the project proposes two specific activities concerning the aviation sector:
- Introduction of frequent flyer taxes
- Taxes depending on the distance traveled
Especially the second activity is more or less a copy-past from the French initiative. The exact wording is as follows: “Likewise, we recommend banning flights on segments which could be done by train in less than 2.5 hours.” Nevertheless, and similar to France only a few routes would vanish. The Spanish Aerovia Podcast mentions three important routes:
- Madrid – Valencia
- Madrid – Alicante
- Madrid – Barcelona
However, the latter is a prestigious one. Iberia, Vueling, and Air Europa operate flights on these routes — summing up to a total of more than 1,400 monthly flights.
EU Offical Backs Flight-Ban Plans
Just lately, Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the EU Commission, supported the idea of a European short-haul flight ban. On top of that, he brought even more radical ideas to the table. For example, Mr. Timmermans said, “I support taxing kerosene-like other fuels,” and “nobody has to fly 10 or 12 times a year.”
The statement sparked a vivid discussion about whether politicians can or should decide how often people need to fly. Although Mr. Timmermans did not mention the German or Spanish plans, such a statement by an EU representative is, of course, of the highest relevance.
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