Air France No Longer Permitted To Sell Domestic Trips That Could Be Taken By Train

The French government has placed several conditions on the 7.5 billion euro bailout it’s providing. The biggest one is that the airline will no longer be allowed to sell purely domestic trips between Paris and domestic cities that are within a 2.5 hour train ride of the capital.

Only passengers connecting from outside the country will be able to fly from Paris to places like Lyon, Bordeaux, and Rennes.

One hour flights will be replaced by two and a half hour train rides by French law, notwithstanding that some people will be traveling from nearby one airport to the other and will have to double connect on trains further lengthening their journeys. And if Air France flies to these cities for long haul connecting passengers with empty seats as a result of this ban it’ll be counterproductive for environmental purposes.

The airline has to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030, but there’s an accounting game going on here because the point of comparison is 2005, not 2020.

And Air France will have to replace their larger planes with more fuel efficient aircraft. This is explicitly viewed as a subsidy for Airbus.

“A new Airbus A220 or A350 can reduce emissions by 20 to 25% by plane and incidentally, it is also one of the conditions for the survival of Airbus “, concluded Bruno Le Maire. The Minister of the Economy thus suggests that Air France could be strongly invited to prefer the European aircraft manufacturer to Boeing for its future purchases.

While the French government declares that Air France must become “more profitable and more competitive” it is taking steps to make that more difficult and less likely.

(HT: mlin32)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The answer to most of societies problems is less government.

    Instead, we are seeing the biggest white flag by people ever – wanting the ‘government’ to do everything.

    France is hardly surprising. There is a reason that country is perennially a mess. But, wait till this virus of government power infects more and more people. :/

  2. May the Trumphening continue in the USA to avoid such stupidity.

    With French policies like this I’m hopeful in the near future we can adjust our immigrant laws to allow exploitation of unemployed French bakers.

    Everyone gets the government they deserve good and hard.

  3. There are direct SNCF bullet trains between CDG and Lyon city center, so no, noone will need to connect twice.

    The train is probably even faster than the plane if you include time spent at the airport.

  4. In addition to Lyon, there are direct trains (no change) from CDG to Rennes and Bordeaux so folks going from the CDG area locally to those cities will have a train option.

  5. Honestly, this kind of policy seems like it would work best if it were EU-wide (so as to be fair to all airlines) and eliminated flights to all domestic cities that are within a 2/2.5hr train ride. Surely once one factors in security, ATC delays etc this should make the train a pretty close competitor time-wise even for folks who live near the airports. If someone lives in a major city like Paris then the time savings of taking the train from a city train station and not having to get to CDG is even greater.

  6. @fred and @lrdx I don’t think Gary has even been on a train.

    Gary, seriously, keep your small minded editorials to yourself. There’s so much wrong with this comment:

    “One hour flights will be replaced by two and a half hour train rides by French law, notwithstanding that some people will be traveling from nearby one airport to the other and will have to double connect on trains further lengthening their journeys. And if Air France flies to these cities for long haul connecting passengers with empty seats as a result of this ban it’ll be counterproductive for environmental purposes.”

    One never starts a journey nor does one end a journey at an airport. An airport is only part of a journey. There’s the getting to the airport, the security, the waiting around, the boarding, the unboarding, etc, etc. So you really cannot compare oranges with fords.

    The SNCF rail network is efficient, modern, fast and affordable. It’s everything that Amtrak isn’t. And if you are using Amtrak in your bias, then you’re a fool.

    Even central DC to central NYC is quicker by train than it is to fly

  7. One would expect from a “thought leader” to actually put some thoughts into a post. This did not happen here, quite obviously. Very unfortunate.

  8. Yeah, this definitely sounds like it was written by someone who has not used rail much, and certainly not European rail. Referring to the “length” of a flight by the in-air time is needless to say a bit rosy of an approximation, given the in-airport time, taxi time on both ends, and propensity for delays. Even here in the U.S., as another poster points out and I can personally confirm, for trips of D.C.-NYC or shorter on the East Coast, the Acela, which is a poor imitator of European rail, is on average almost always faster, not even accounting for non-time benefits such as more space per passenger, continuous mobile connectivity, no seat belt signs, etc.

    Also, not exactly sure what is an “accounting game” about using a 2005 baseline for cutting carbon emissions – every entity that sets a carbon reduction target picks a baseline year. This likely coincides with the time when AF first started implementing significant efficiency initiatives, and they want to capture the full effect of their work.

  9. I don’t like things mandated, but this won’t cause much of an imposition because CDG has a train station in the airport. In fact, I have been known to fly TATL into CDG and take the train to Brussles Midi when the direct flights to BRU in business class are thousands more.

    NY-DC is a little different. Flying can be faster depending on where you are going. But not as dependable. Also, for those comparing the TGV/Thalys to the Acela, I have noticed the TGV/Thalys getting a little worn. And first class on the Acela is better food and service than TGV/Thalys, as well as an easy upgrade.

  10. I’m not so much concerned about the specifics of the policy as the propensity to make non-COVID-19 political decisions as a condition of the bailouts. The bailout and its conditions should be tied to airline requirements that are virus related, such as requirements in the areas of passenger density, safety, and cleanliness policies; cancellation, change and refund policies, and the like.

    The trains in France are efficient and reliable, but they are not free. If you need to get a train ticket at a peak hour to meet up with an air itinerary that you would have otherwise completed with a single connecting air ticket, the cost to the consumer will often be considerably higher. It is not uncommon at all in Europe that flying is cheaper than riding a train. An alternative to banning such connections would be to further tax the domestic air flight and/or further subsidize the rail trip to incentivize more people to take the train.

  11. It will be good to see KLM stand alone again, buy Boeing aircraft and becoming Europe’s third largest airline. AF is a dead dog (ba bye). They will be entirely supported by the French government and tax payers and will be saddled with Airbus planes it can’t afford or fly to any where.

    This will be the next Alitalia! DL will only have KLM in Europe at this point. What a bunch of idiots.

  12. I can’t believe a travel blogger would write something like this.. this is really embarrassing

  13. Love that all the commenters are light travellers who don’t worry about taking a train from Lyon to CDG pulling several pieces of luggage and with kids in tow. If I lived in Lyon, I’d rather start my trip by through-checking my bags at LYS to the final destination and making a shorter connection airside at CDG than if I arrived there by train. All of you who think differently can already take the train, just don’t force those who don’t think like you to do the same.

  14. Comparing a 1h flight with a 2h train ride does not make any sense.
    We all know l that a 1h flight translates into 2 or 3 hours if you add, check-in, boarding, security, etc… Not to speak about the risk of delays – much higher while flying.

  15. @Oh! Matron! : If the train were more efficient for them, people would choose it for themselves. They don’t, hence they have to be forced in order to subsidize the trains, that are state owned.

    You have no idea what is best for other individuals, you just don’t have the information. So shut up and stop telling other people what to do. You sound like a fat-headed actress telling people what to do in an Oscar speech.

  16. What an idiotic post, indirectly advocating for the government to throw money at BOTH railroads AND airlines for the exact same routes. I understood the author to be all for “smaller” government, but I guess he’s just parroting the far rights talking points without understanding a bit of what he’s doing — he now wants MORE SUBSIDIES!

  17. I find the requirement to buy Airbus planes to be interesting. I bet Trump wishes he thought of a requirement that Delta buy Boeing planes as a condition of their bailout.

  18. I think Gary is referring to connecting itineraries. Why add “check-in, security, etc.” to the equation if you are already airside?

    If you received a $1,200 government hand out, then accept the big government “solving all my problems” reality and kindly shut up.

  19. Seems to me that if trains were faster, easier and cheaper they wouldn’t have to be mandated.

  20. This policy actually sits well with me. Government should not be interfering in our lives. However this has no negative effect. France has high speed rail travel and flying means longer total time than the train. Getting to the airport, checking in, security, waiting around, taxi, departure line, gate delays, luggage delays (if checked) mean 3 hours for even the shortest flight between cities in France. This isn’t even being forced on the airlines by legislation but through voluntarily accepting government aid (yes this is an unprecedented situation not the fault of airlines). Since this has zero negative effects for 99% of the people living in France I’m not upset by it. Let’s focus on the ridiculous union policies that keep France’s economy subdued, let’s focus on illegal immigration that destroys French communities with violence and foreign culture, let’s focus on the excessive taxes that burdens businesses and let’s focus on fighting radical environmentalist policies that are both ineffective and unduly burdensome citizens of France when China is the biggest culprit of environmental problems.

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