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After Banning Short Haul Flights, France Wants to Ban Low-Cost Fares

The French transport minister has called for minimum prices for airline tickets

by Samir Kadri

September 15, 2023

Photo: Ekaterina Pokrovsky / Adobe Stock

The French government in looking to institute a minimum price for airline tickets in a move that Clément Beaune, France’s Minister of Transport, claims will “fight against social and environmental dumping.”

“Plane tickets at €10 (~$10), at a time of ecological transition, this is no longer possible,” Beaune said in an interview with French news magazine L’Obs. “This does not reflect the price for the planet.”

Scrapping budget airline fares across the domestic market appears to be the latest development in France’s wider strategy to crack down on air travel and curb emissions.

In May, France banned short domestic flights that could be covered by train in under 2 hours and 30 minutes. Then, last month, Beaune hinted at introducing tax hikes on plane tickets in order to raise funds for the state-owned rail industry.

“It allows us to finance investments in the train. Many people tell us that they are shocked that, often, the plane costs less than the train. We need more investments in the railway,” Beaune said in an interview with the radio station RMC.

But is eradicating budget fares going to help reduce the aviation industry’s impact on the environment?

While reducing carbon emissions remains a worthy goal for governments across the world, targeting people searching for a bargain flight may not be the best approach. Ultra low-cost carriers achieve a higher passenger-to-carbon ratio by squeezing people into every inch of available space on the aircraft, while pricier legacy carriers tend to have a lower efficiency in this regard.

Additionally, low-cost carriers typically employ more fuel-efficient aircraft compared with legacy carriers.

Getting rid of budget fares could end up penalizing the people flying most efficiently, even as those flying in private jets with disproportionately large emissions are allowed to carry on unencumbered.

“Anything that makes airlines pay a fair share of the environmental cost that they create is a good thing,” says Jon Worth, founder of the Trains for Europe campaign told 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.”

The introduction of minimum fares would only affect France, and it would directly lead to higher fares for flag carrier Air France, whose largest shareholder is the French government.