France has banned short-haul domestic flights. How much it will help combat climate change is up in the air.

Paris – France has passed a law banning some domestic flights and encouraging travelers to take the train instead. Under the new law, flights replaced by train journeys of less than two and a half hours should be eliminated.

The ban on short-hop flights became law on Tuesday. However, France’s national airline had already canceled three routes deemed too high on carbon emissions. All three flew from Orly, another airport in Paris, on service to Bordeaux, Lyon and Nantes. All three cities are on the country’s extensive high-speed rail network, and taking the train is also faster than flying there.

Air France agreed to drop these direct routes in 2020 in return for coronavirus financial aid from the government.

Critics say the ban will have a negligible impact on carbon emissions. Laurent Doncel, interim head of industry group Airlines for Europe, which represents several airlines including Air France, KLM, Lufthansa and Ryanair, dismissed the law as a “symbolic ban”. He told Agence France-Presse news service that governments should instead support “real and significant solutions” to airline emissions.

While the ban sounds like a good idea to help combat climate change, there are actually several caveats that severely limit its scope. The alternative train service should be frequent, timely and allow passengers to reach and depart their point of origin in the same day while allowing them a full eight hours at their destination.

The choice of a designated train station as a point of departure has also stifled plans to limit short-haul flights from Paris’s main airport. Charles de Gaulle. A comparable train station is the one at the airport – which has a much more limited service than the seven mainline stations in Paris itself.

This means that while you can’t fly directly from Orly to Bordeaux, you can fly from CDG to the southwestern wine city. In fact, the only routes affected by the ban are Orly’s three which no longer operate.

An Air France Airbus aircraft lands at Athens International Airport on July 15, 2019.
An Air France Airbus aircraft lands at Athens International Airport on July 15, 2019.

Nicholas Economou/Nor Photo via Getty Images

An exception to the ban allows flights with transfers to continue operating, and this leads to some complex routes that take longer than a direct flight or train – and that means take-offs and landings. An even more harmful emission.

For example, a direct route from Paris in eastern France to Lyon, the gastronomic capital and a business hub, took less than an hour from Orly. That route has been canceled because it was considered frivolous. You can still fly from Orly to Lyon — but you have to fly south via Nice, changing planes to get back to Lyon, for a flight time of three hours, 15 minutes.

Conversely, a high-speed train from Paris will get you to central Lyon in just two hours. Or you can still fly direct from De Gaulle in just over an hour. However, the total travel time is considerably longer when you include travel to and from airports, check-in and going through security checkpoints.

The quest for lower emissions has forced European airlines to evaluate a number of options. Air France recently announced plans to renew its fleet in an effort to reduce carbon emissions. It says it will also increase sustainable aviation fuel use.

The airline already has a train and air partnership with France’s national rail company SNCF to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. It allows travelers to combine flight and train reservations into a single booking, essentially allowing people to quickly and easily compare travel methods.

Aviation news website Runway Girl Network Reports that Spanish airline Iberia is currently expanding its flight and train combination offering; Dutch airline KLM is buying seats on high-speed trains from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport to Brussels to skip one of its daily flights between the two cities.

When the ban was first lifted as part of France’s 2021 climate act, transport minister Clément Bevan called it a “major step in the policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions”.

He added that I am proud that France is a pioneer in this field.

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