Ban on certain air links: French airports strike back in Brussels

French airports announced on Tuesday that they had filed an appeal with the European Commission to obtain the annulment of the ban on domestic air links when there is an alternative by train in less than 2.5 hours.

This ban, provided for by article 145 of the recent Climate and Resilience law, would be “legally unfounded”, believes Thomas Juin, the president of the French Airports Union (UAF), at the origin of the complaint filed jointly with the European branch of the Airports Council International (ACI Europe), on September 17th.

This article provides for the prohibition of “regular public air transport services for passengers concerning all air links within French territory, the journey of which is also provided on the national rail network without a connection and by several daily connections of a duration of less than two and a half hours ”.

Thomas Juin recalled that this article of the Climate Law was based on a European text, article 20 of regulation n ° 1008/2008. It provides for exceptions to the exercise of air traffic rights “in the event of serious damage to the environment”.

“We are twisting European law”

But according to him, the European regulation only authorizes these restrictions for local and temporary reasons. The text actually mentions “a limited period of validity, not exceeding three years, at the end of which they are re-examined”.

“We twist European law to apply a measure that will be more ineffective from an environmental point of view,” said the leader of this gathering of 165 airports: the lines thus banned from March 2022 represent “0.23% »Emissions from French domestic lines.

Concretely, the connections falling within the perimeter of the law are Marseille-Lyon, Paris-Orly-Nantes, Orly-Lyon and Orly-Bordeaux. The text nevertheless provides for exceptions for correspondence.

The law especially ratifies the existing, since the government had forced Air France to give up the routes concerned in return for financial support in May 2020. It prohibits competitors from rushing into the breach.

During parliamentary debates, the UAF had already contested the abolition of these lines, in particular Orly-Bordeaux which, before the health crisis, transported more than 560,000 travelers per year.

“The aviation sector turns a blind eye”

Airports are not unaware of the challenges of global warming, stressed Thomas Juin, recalling that the sector was committed to “carbon neutrality” by 2050.

But for the environmental associations grouped together in the Climate Action Network (RAC), it is different. “With this complaint against the removal of links that can be completed in less than 2h30, the air transport sector confirms that it prefers to close its eyes to the reality of its climate impact: in 20 years, the air sector’s emissions have more than doubled” to represent 5% of greenhouse gas emissions.

“It is urgent to close the internal lines for which there is an alternative train in less than 4 hours as recommended by the Citizen’s Convention for the climate”, which could be done “now without strong constraints for users”, believes the RAC.

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