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This country is on a mission to end super-cheap flights in Europe

The French transport minister has said that the climate crisis must spell the end of super-low airfares

Liv Kelly
Written by
Liv Kelly

In bad news for bargain-hunting travellers – but good news for anyone who likes having a habitable planet to travel around – the French government has just announced their intentions to propose a minimum flight price policy to the European Union. If enacted, it could mean an end to super-cheap flights in Europe.

Clément Beaune, the French Transport Minister, recently said in an interview with L’Obs that cheap flights are no longer a viable transport option, largely because of the climate crisis. He said that ultra-low flight fares ‘[don’t] reflect the price for the planet.’

This comes after France banned some short-haul flight routes, in a bid to encourage the use of railways instead and reduce carbon emissions. This ban was mostly symbolic as it has so far applied to just three routes: Paris-Orly to Bordeaux, Lyon and Nantes.

On top of this, inspired by Portugal and Germany’s affordable monthly rail pass, the French government is reportedly considering launching a similar scheme.

While the new proposals against low airfares may seem like a step in the right direction in terms of protecting the environment, Jon Worth, founder of the Trains for Europe campaign, explains that they do not target the real problem.

‘Anything that makes airlines pay a fair share of the environmental cost that they create is a good thing,’ said Worth to Euronews. ‘But we should be dealing with frequent flyers and this does not deal with them. It might reduce nice city weekends for some people but it's not going to stop or reduce this regular flying elite.’

According to some research by Possible, a climate campaign group, frequent flyers are responsible for an incredibly high proportion of overall flights in Europe. In the Netherlands, eight percent of people take 42 percent of flights. In the UK, 15 percent take 70 percent of flights, and in France, a measly two percent take half of all flights.

Possible are campaigning for the introduction in the UK of a frequent flyer levy, which would be an increase in an individual’s tax rate based on how many flights they take per year. 

Increasingly, there are also viable alternatives to flying for many European journeys. European rail is in an era of revitalisation, with many new high-speed routes being planned, and new or revived sleeper routes such as the one from Paris to Berlin. Perhaps the end of cheap flights would be an extra push to let the train take the strain.

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