Travel news For Members

Factcheck: Is France really banning cheap flights?

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
Factcheck: Is France really banning cheap flights?
Photo by HATIM KAGHAT / Belga / AFP

France's transport minister has caused a stir with his call for minimum flight prices, saying that €10 flights are 'no longer possible' during a climate crisis - but is this really the end of budget flights to and from France?


France's transport minister Clément Beaune on Thursday gave an interview to the business magazine L'Obs in which he said: "Plane tickets for €10 during the ecological transition [the move towards green technology and practices because of the climate crisis] - it is no longer possible".

He said that very low cost plane tickets "do not reflect the price to the planet" of air travel, and said that he also fully supported extra ecological taxes on airlines. 

He gave no detail on what the minimum price should be.

Recent research from Greenpeace shows that across Europe, flights are routinely cheaper than train journeys along the same route, something that discourages travellers from opting for the less environmentally damaging option.

So is that the end of Ryanair and Easyjet in France?

Not quite, Beaune was clear that he intends this to be an EU-wide initiative, and added that he would present the idea to his counterparts in other EU countries "in the coming days".

This would ensure that any eventual legislation would be much more far-reaching, but since the EU is not renowned for its speedy movement it means that minimum pricing legislation will certainly not be in force within the next couple of months.

The EU has, however, already signalled its willingness to act to limit air travel for environmental reasons, and is currently discussing increasing taxes on aviation fuel.


The European Court has already produced an interesting ruling on this issue - France in 2021 banned domestic flights on any route where the same journey could be done by train in two-and-a-half hours or less.

Several airlines appealed this law to the European Court, arguing that it amounted to state aid for a certain sector (rail travel). Their appeal was rejected under an EU mechanism that allows state aid under 'exceptional circumstances' - it's usually used for wars or natural disasters, but the court concluded that the climate crisis represents an exceptional set of circumstances and that extreme action is necessary.

This could set a precedent to allow minimum price fixing that would otherwise be banned. 

So what's a likely timeframe?

It really depends on whether other EU transport ministers agree. If everyone is in agreement the measure could be enacted relatively quickly.

If there is disagreement, it could take longer or be voted down altogether.

But we're talking years rather than months even if everyone agrees.


Could France bring in its own minimum prices?

Beaune has also previously discussed other measures to limit aviation including increasing taxes on airline fuel and banning private jets, and each time he has been keen for this to happen on a European level.

Not only would this be far more wide-reaching but it would also be more practical when discussing an industry that, by its very nature, crosses borders.

However France has brought in its own domestic legislation - including that ban on short-haul domestic flights. This applies only to flights within France where the journey can be done by train in two-and-a-half hours or less, so its impact has been limited.

This too is a compromise - the original proposal was for journeys that could be done by train in six hours, which would have covered almost all domestic flights in France - but ended up being watered down to get it through parliament.

France is also planning to increase the domestic tax that is imposed on plane tickets - this currently stands at €3 for a standard plane ticket or €18 for a business/first class ticket. Full details of this plan are yet to be revealed - it's set to be included in the 2024 budget which will be debated this autumn - but the intention is to use the extra money raised to fund rail investment. This would apply only to flights departing France. 


France has also in the past introduced its own domestic legislation when it felt that the EU was too slow - for example on the taxing of tech giants.

Why does Beaune want to do this?

The minister is not on his own on this issue - after being rightly regarded as dragging its heels on environmental issues, the French government has in recent years stepped up on what is dubbed the transition écologique - the enormous task of switching to a green economy in line with the Paris Climate Commitments to reduce global emissions and halt global heating.

France aims to have zero emissions by 2030 and this will involve a root-and-branch change to everything from how industry operates to the cars we drive and even the temperature in the office.

In 2022 aviation represented between two and three percent of all global emissions and 3.8 percent of emissions within the EU. Within the EU, aviation represents 13.8 percent of transport emissions, making it the second largest polluter after road travel.

The European Green Deal sets a target of reducing transport emissions by 90 percent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. 


Comments (1)

Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

Rod Webb 2023/08/31 17:18
Great to see France leading the way on this. Bravery in the face of the inevitable opposition is essential. The curent situation is ridiculous, unsustainable and completely at odds with tackling climate change.

See Also