The European Union has upheld France’s landmark climate law that bans select flights on routes where trains are time competitive.
The decision, from European Commissioner of Transport Adina-Ioana Valean on December 1, finds that France can ban domestic flights where trains can make the journey in two-and-a-half-hours or less. The law, which aims to cut carbon emissions and promote use of the country’s high-speed rail system, is the first of its kind globally.
The law codified a condition in the state aid package provided to Air France. To date, it has forced the airline to suspend only three routes: Paris’ Orly airport to Bordeaux, Lyon, and Nantes. Flights on the routes from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport are still allowed for connecting travelers, and because train trip times from the airport’s rail station are longer than the 2.5-hour cap.
“We’re never going to go back — we’re not going to go back to the [pre-crisis] levels,” Air France-KLM Chief Financial Officer Steven Zaat said on domestic France capacity in July 2021 following implementation of the law.
The EU noted that flights on three more air routes in France could be barred if rail services improve. Charles de Gaulle to Lyon and Rennes, and Lyon to Marseille currently offer competitive high-speed rail services but have not been suspended due to limited schedules and trip times that are not always under 2.5 hours.
Separate from the climate law, Air France and French state rail-operator SNCF are working to expand their “Train + Air” partnership. These connections allow travelers to book both a flight and train on a single itinerary and, in theory, seamlessly check-in and connect between the two modes at certain airports, including Charles de Gaulle. In practice, the connections are not as seamless as they could be, including limited airport wayfinding and technology disconnects.