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France Officially Bans Short-Haul Flights 

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In a move that comes almost two years after proposing the policy, the country of France has signed into law a ban on domestic flights under two-and-a-half hours this past week.

They are the first country in the world to do so, with the move being a sweeping attempt to reduce the country's carbon emissions. Which flights are affected, how could it impact French tourism, and might it signal a wider change across borders?

woman with hat looking at Eiffel tower in sun

Who Is Affected?

Essentially, for a flight to fall under the ban, two main criteria must be met: The trip must be possible by high-speed rail in less than 2.5 hours, and the train's timetable must run both early and late enough for travelers to spend at least eight hours at their destination. 

The ban currently only affects flights between Paris-Orly Airport (ORY) and:

  • Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport (BOD)
  • Lyon–Saint Exupéry Airport (LYS)
  • Nantes Atlantique Airport (NTE)

While it was previously thought that connecting flights would be affected, that is not the case now. 

Trains arrived in the main train station Bordeaux-Saint-Jean

When the law was initially drafted, a stricter approach was planned. Previously, fights that could be made on the train in under four hours were set to be banned, but the time limit has since been reduced to two and a half hours instead. 

Although this week has seen the law come into effect, national flag carrier Air France has essentially been following it since a 2021 climate law and a subsequent 7-billion-euro COVID-19 support package was initiated. 

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The international airport Charles de Gaulle, the hall of a departure in the terminal E

Why Short-Haul Specifically? 

When factoring in the distance covered and the amount of emissions released into the environment, the profound negative effects of these flights become clear. One reason is that emissions are particularly high when the plane takes off, leaving travelers with a higher per-pound footprint. 

Air travel in general only accounts for 2.5% of carbon emissions globally, which is a very small amount when compared to other industries such as the overall transportation sector, electricity, and industry. 

However, many studies indicate that the aviation industry is unfortunately the fastest-growing source of harmful greenhouse gasses in Europe, and many leaders agree that change needs to start somewhere. 

By banning flights where emissions are high, and alternative travel options are easily accessible, the French government hopes to attempt to start tackling the difficult task of reeling in the aviation industry's emissions levels. 

Close-up view of a CDGVAL airport shuttle stationing at the terminus station at the foot of the Terminal 1 of Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport

Tourism Impact

To what degree this new law might affect French tourism this coming summer remains to be seen, but with more and more train options becoming increasingly available across Europe, the stars seem to be aligning for a larger shift toward train travel in general. 

In fact, critics of the new French law state that the public is already leaning towards reducing their carbon footprints as more people come to understand that the emissions from air travel can play a significant part in climate change.

Because of this, many are shifting to train travel over air travel anyways, and some state that the new law does little more than pay lip service to the topic of reducing carbon emissions. 

Sunset view of Eiffel tower and Seine river in Paris, France copy

The timing of the law in regards to tourism and France is a bit interesting, as France has not had the best press recently, leading potential tourists to shy away from visiting and choosing other idyllic European cities instead.

Or, if not staying away from France in general, many travelers are attempting to find alternatives to The City Of Lights, and favoring more underrated French destinations instead.

Another factor in this complicated relationship is the French Air Traffic Control (ATC) strikes which have forced the cancelation of thousands of flights in just the start of 2023 alone.

While this doesn’t directly coincide with this new flight ban, it adds another layer to the complex issue of French aviation and tourism and how it will reshape itself throughout the rest of 2023. 

Paris Cityscape View from Airplane Window

Who’s Next?

As the first country in the European Union to ban short-haul flights, all eyes are on neighboring countries to see who will be the next to make such changes to their national aviation industry. While France has been hailed as being a leader with this new law, it’s unclear who will be next.

Climate-conscious countries such as the Netherlands have expressed an interest in making similar changes, focusing on banning or reducing private jets and night flights. 

EU flags in front of European Commission in Brussels

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

James II

Monday 29th of May 2023



Friday 26th of May 2023

Peasants are not allowed to travel, only the Wef rich people do.


Friday 26th of May 2023

So the EU is not worried about the emissions from the war in Ukraine or money making events like the Grand Prix or the diesel spuing Chinese ships, but let's target the aviation sector again!


Thursday 25th of May 2023

Here come the carbon credits. I'm sure those who accepted the experimental fix will gladly oblige.