On April 10, 2021, the French National Assembly voted to ban short-haul flights on routes where a train journey taking less than two and a half hours is available, in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft.1 This came days after the same French government bailed out the privately owned Air France-KLM, which, like most airlines around the world, has been on its knees since COVID-19 lockdowns virtually destroyed international air travel.
The French government’s ban, if it passes the senate, will deprive travelers of choice and harm already-struggling airlines. The train services that the government hopes passengers will use instead are largely operated by SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français), owned by the French government.
SNCF is well-known in France for its unreliability; its employees have gone on strike at least once every year since 1947.2 . . .
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1. “French Lawmakers Approve a Ban on Short Domestic Flights,” Reuters, April 11, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climate-change-france-flights-idUSKBN2BY0AO?taid=6072cd524ab4da0001c1936c.
2. “Not One Year since 1947 without SNCF Strike in France,” The Connexion, December 20, 2019, https://www.connexionfrance.com/French-news/Not-one-year-since-1947-without-SNCF-workers-going-on-strike-in-France-data-study-shows.
4. Oliver Cuenca, “SNCF Presents Action Plan for Normandy,” International Railway Journal, October 29, 2020, https://www.railjournal.com/regions/europe/sncf-presents-action-plan-for-normandy/.
5. Agence France-Presse, “Sweden to Increase Airport Fees for High-Polluting Planes,” The Guardian, March 23, 2021,
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/23/sweden-to-increase-airport-fees-for-high-polluting-planes; Jon Henley, “#stayontheground: Swedes Turn to Trains Amid Climate ‘Flight Shame,’” The Guardian, June 4, 2019,
6. Fiona Harvey, “Equivalent of Covid Emissions Drop Needed Every Two Years—Study,” The Guardian, March 3, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/03/global-lockdown-every-two-years-needed-to-meet-paris-co2-goals-study.
7. According to Oxford Economics, the aviation industry contributes £52 billion to the UK economy annually, or 3.4 percent of the country’s total GDP. “Economic Benefits of Air Travel in the UK,” Oxford Economics, November 2014, https://www.aoa.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Economic-Benefits-from-Air-Transport-in-the-UK.pdf.pdf.
8. Although there were 1.58 deaths per billion passenger kilometers for car journeys, 24.02 death per billion kilometers for pedal cycles, and 83.39 deaths for motorcycles in the UK between 2005 and 2015, there were no deaths at all for aviation journeys. “How Safe Is Aviation?,” UK Civil Aviation Authority, https://www.caa.co.uk/Safety-initiatives-and-resources/Aviation-safety-review/How-safe-is-aviation/.