Following pressure from NGOs and social media trackers, a political debate has emerged in France on the idea of limiting, taxing or even banning private flights. 

Social media accounts, primarily on Twitter, have garnered a lot of attention in recent months by tracking the flights of private jets owned by celebrities, including Elon Musk, Taylor Swift and Drake. In France, regular flights of prominent billionaires such as Bernard Arnault or Vincent Bolloré have sparked heated debates.  

So much so that on August 19, 2022, Julien Bayou, national secretary of Europe Ecology-The Greens (Europe Ecologie-Les Verts, EELV), called for a total ban on private jets on the grounds that they “pollute ten times more than an airliner.” 

“Some people are totally disconnected and take the plane like others take the metro,” Bayou told the French newspaper Liberation. “This is the story of the separatism of the elites: we are on the same planet, but no longer in the same world.” 

The lawmaker cited the results of a 2021 study by the non-governmental organization Transport & Environment (T&E), which reported that private jets are 5 to 14 times more polluting than commercial planes, and that business jets were twice as likely to be used for very short regional flights. 

A few days later, the French government reacted with a tamer proposal. On August 25, 2022, Clément Beaune, Minister Delegate for Transport, said he would bring up the topic of regulating private jet flights to the French Council of Ministers the next day, and to the next meeting of European transport ministers in October 2022. 

The Group of French aeronautical and space industries (GIFAS), presided over by Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury, reacted to the debate by arguing that larger business jets in France represented just 0.00025% of global CO2 emissions. 

“80% of [business aviation] flights operated in France are for commercial purposes,” it said, describing them as a valuable tool for companies. “The remaining 20% is made up of government, medical and private flights.” 

However, in its study, T&E pointed out that European private jet CO2 emissions increased by 31% between 2005 and 2019. And that tendency only increased with the COVID-19 pandemic. In June 2022, business aviation surpassed 2019 pre-pandemic levels of traffic in Europe by 20%, according to Eurocontrol.