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Planes to trains: France’s (in)consequential new ban

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

You stand in line, holding your carry-on bag tightly, waiting to board. You hear a voice over the speaker calling out flights overhead. The line moves at a snail's pace as you stare out the window at the planes rising into the air and disappearing into the sky.

For passengers traveling short domestic flights (less than 2.5 hours by train) in France, this experience, for better or worse, is over. On Tuesday, France banned any short domestic flights, citing emissions cuts as their reason.

A plane in the sky

Thus far, the move has been a controversial one. Some, like France’s transport minister, support the ban and the move towards sustainability that it represents. People like him see the ban as the next step in ending climate change and shifting the way we live our lives. Not only that, but they also see it as a conversation starter for other governments who may want to implement similar proposals.

At the same time, some see the ban as a shallow move with little real consequences. They cite the fact that a small percentage of global emissions comes from flights—around 2 percent—meaning the ban will do little to impact climate change. In addition, critics say that the ban is hollow as its goal—switching travelers from plane to train—is already in motion naturally.

No matter how effective you think it is, the ban is a move towards sustainability that, in many countries, would be unheard of. Hopefully it is a sign that more change is to come.

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