While it is a flagship measure in the fight against climate change in France, the European Commission announced, Friday, December 17, the opening of an investigation into the plan to abolish domestic flights in the event of an alternative in train in less than two and a half hours.
Brussels “Has decided to carry out an in-depth analysis of the file, and will open a formal dialogue with the French authorities”, at the end of which it will make a decision, said a spokesperson, Stefan De Keersmaecker.
“It’s a procedural step” which does not prejudge the final decision to ban the measure or not, he said. “We understood that the French authorities intend to implement this [mesure] from March, end of March 2022 “, he continued, specifying that the Commission would take “A decision as quickly as possible”.
Air carrier complaints
The French authorities notified their decree in Brussels on November 17. French airports and some of the airlines are calling on the European executive to cancel this measure provided for by the recent French Climate Law. The French Airports Union (UAF) thus filed a complaint on September 17, jointly with the European branch of the Airports Council International (ACI Europe).
UAF President Thomas Juin believes that article 145 of the Climate and Resilience Law, adopted in July in France, is “Legally unfounded”. This article therefore provides for the prohibition of “Regular public air transport services for passengers relating to all air links within French territory, the journey of which is also provided on the national rail network without a connection and by several daily connections lasting less than two and a half hours”.
Mr. Juin recalled that this article is based on a European text providing for exceptions to the exercise of traffic rights “In the event of serious damage to the environment”, but according to him for “Local, temporary reasons” and not applicable to the subject of global warming.
Air France has already given up on the affected routes in 2020
Also, the Syndicate of autonomous airlines (Scara) – which claims to represent half of French companies but not Air France – announced on November 25 that it had also filed an appeal in Brussels, making the same arguments.
Concretely, the connections falling within the perimeter of the law are Marseille-Lyon, Paris-Orly-Nantes, Orly-Lyon and Orly-Bordeaux. The text nevertheless provides for exceptions for correspondence. The law especially ratifies the existing one, since the government forced Air France to give up the routes concerned in return for financial support in May 2020. It prohibits competitors from rushing into the breach.
During parliamentary debates, the UAF had already contested the abolition of these lines, in particular Orly-Bordeaux which, before the health crisis, transported more than 560,000 travelers per year.
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The European Commission opens an investigation into the abolition of domestic flights in France