The end of low-cost flights in Europe? France proposes EU minimum airfare

The French government wants to eliminate low-cost tickets and has proposed minimum ticket prices for all flights to, from, and within the European Union’s 27 member countries. 

In an interview with the news magazine L’Obs, French Transport Minister Clément Beaune justified the proposal by citing the ongoing environmental crisis. 

“Plane tickets at €10, at a time of ecological transition, this is no longer possible,” Beaune said. “This does not reflect the price for the planet.” 

While the move has been presented as part of a broader EU strategy to combat climate change, it has sparked a heated debate over its social and economic implications. 

According to a Greenpeace study published in July 2023, traveling across Europe by train can cost two to four times as much as flying. When 112 European routes linking major cities were examined, the study found that flights were generally cheaper on seven-in-10 (79 out of 112) of the routes.  

According to Tony Renucci, director of air quality advocacy group Respire, establishing a minimum price for plane tickets is a step in the right direction, but he does not yet “see how it will encourage people to take the alternative.” 

“If you want people to take the train rather than the plane, you must lower the cost of train tickets,” he told France Info. 

Looking at air pollution, Renucci told the publication that air travel “contributes little” compared to the car. 

This is not the first time Beaune has recommended raising airline ticket taxes to fund improvements for greener travel alternatives. 

“It allows us to finance investments in the train,” Beaune said during an interview with RMC radio station in August 2023. “Many people tell us that they are shocked that, often, the plane costs less than the train.” 

In May 2023, France also partially banned short-haul flights to destinations reachable by train in under 2.5 hours. However, the move was criticized for its limited scope, affecting only three routes from Paris-Orly to Bordeaux, Lyon, and Nantes. 

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