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France Seeks to End Budget Air Travel Across Europe

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Photo: Clement Bon, the French transport minister has said that the climate crisis must spell the end of super-low airfares. Source: pxhere.
Photo: Clement Bon, the French transport minister has said that the climate crisis must spell the end of super-low airfares. Source: pxhere.

Bad news for budget-conscious travelers but a positive development for those concerned about the environment: the French government has just announced its intentions to propose a policy of minimum airfare prices to the European Union, which, if accepted, could spell the end of ultra-cheap air travel across Europe.

This comes as reported by Timeout.

Clement Bon, the French Minister of Transport, recently stated in an interview with L'Obs that cheap flights are no longer a sustainable mode of transportation, primarily due to the climate crisis. He argued that low ticket prices "do not reflect the cost to the planet."

This decision follows France's ban on certain short-haul flight routes, aiming to encourage the use of railways and reduce carbon emissions. While the ban has been largely symbolic for now, as it currently applies to only three routes: Paris-Orly to Bordeaux, Lyon, and Nantes.

Additionally, inspired by accessible monthly travel passes in Portugal and Germany, the French government is reportedly considering implementing a similar scheme.

While these new proposals against low airfare prices may seem like a step in the right direction for environmental protection, John Worth, founder of the Trains for Europe campaign, explains that they don't address the real issue.

"Anything that forces airlines to pay their fair share of the environmental costs they create is a good thing," Worth said. "But we need to deal with frequent flyers, and this doesn't address them. It might reduce nice city breaks for some people, but it won't stop or reduce the regular flying elite."

According to some research by Possible, a climate campaign group, frequent flyers are responsible for an incredibly high proportion of total flights in Europe. In the Netherlands, 8% of people account for 42% of flights. In the UK, 15% contribute to 70% of flights, and in France, a mere 2% take half of all flights.

There are increasing calls for the introduction of a frequent flyer levy in the UK, which would involve raising the individual tax rate based on the number of flights a person takes each year.

Viable alternatives to flights are becoming more prevalent for many European journeys. European rail is experiencing a renaissance, with plans for many new high-speed routes and new or revived sleeper services, such as the Paris to Berlin route. Perhaps the end of cheap airfare will serve as an additional incentive to relieve the burden on trains.

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