What if any flight which could’ve realistically been an easy rail or car journey was no longer allowed to fly? In France, that’s soon to be a policy, not a proposition. The country, as part of sweeping bailout support for the aviation sector, is putting new rules in place which limits where and who airlines can fly. Will it catch on elsewhere?
It’s all based on access to alternative means of mass transit, and distance, and it could pave the way for a revolution in travel. Short haul air travel may disappear in a post health, climate focused world.
France is bailing out Air France, with more than 7.5 billion Euros in support of the airline. Naturally, that sort of cash comes with stipulations, but unlike rules about being nice to passengers, new laws will fundamentally change how the French public travels entirely.
For starters, the airline is not allowed to sell domestic between Paris and any destination which could be reached with a rail journey of 2.5 hours, or less. That’s correct, a Parisien, or anyone in Paris, or places like Bordeaux will no longer be allowed to purchase a domestic flight between Paris and a variety of provincial cities.
The airline will be allowed to operate flights between Paris and these domestic destinations, but only for passengers connecting from outside of the country, meaning from Europe or further abroad. This would naturally lead to fewer passengers on each flight, which increases emissions per flight, based on fewer passengers on each plane, while also making some routes non viable for the airline.
It means more rail, more mass transit and for some… longer journeys. French TGV is generally regarded as excellent, so if there was a country ready to go in this direction, it probably was France all along. It’s not all bad, it’s just new and could become a model for other countries. But, should it?
France is one thing, but what if other countries begin limiting rights to short haul flying routes, to push for lower emissions and advocate for mass transit?
Correctly, businesses around the world, particularly in travel, are looking at their impact on the environment and making changes to reduce it. If one country is going to tie one hand behind its national airline’s back, in hopes of creating more sustainable travel, the EU may indeed push for wider, equal measures across all Schengen borders.
Why stop there?
The East Coast of the United States is a corridor ripe with hourly flights between cities such as Boston and New York, or New York and Washington DC, but also offers improving rail service. The same could be said for the United Kingdom, with an already robust domestic rail network, featuring competing operators.
It’d be hard to imagine such an overreaching policy finding its way into the US Government at the moment, but as climate talks reenter the news with the stabilization of health concerns, these are just the kind of place discussions could take foot.
For every action, there’s a reaction, and many countries would struggle to meet the challenges and demands of such heavy additional passenger traffic on railways today. If infrastructure investments begin to tie into environmental impacts to reduce emissions though, rail could emerge a serious winner.
Will this French policy alter short haul travel forever? Only time will tell, but it just might.