France May Set Minimum Prices For Airline Tickets To Protect Air France From Competition

France is considering a new law to make air travel more expensive: setting a minimum price for airline tickets. According to the country’s Minister of Transport,

Airline tickets for 10 euros while we are in the midst of an ecological transition are no longer possible; this does not reflect the cost to the planet.

Such a rule would “only affect domestic flights as most European Union countries have a different view from that of France.”

This would mean less competition for Air France, and less competition for buses and trains. It would make air travel more the province of the wealthy.

While done under the guise of the environment, it’s really protectionism for the national carrier whose largest owner is the French government – and it’s a move that is actually bad for the environment.

  • Ultra low cost carriers carry more passengers per unit of carbon by cramming people in than legacy carriers that charge higher fares do. Generally low cost carriers operate more fuel efficient fleets than legacy carriers, too.

  • Half empty planes emit roughly as much carbon as full ones do. Higher fares mean fewer passengers, and carbon emissions without much benefit while increasing demand for other modes of transport with concomitant increases in their carbon emissions. The net effect here is unclear.

  • Meanwhile business and first class passengers take up more space on an aircraft than the same number of economy passengers, so Air France’s premium-heavy approach entails more emissions per person for that reason as well.

    Wizz Air argues business class should be banned due to its environmental effects, so both sides can use the environment as a fig leaf for their self-interest just as easily.

  • The worst emissions are from aircraft on certain routes and at certain altitudes. Prices for domestic air travel do not effect this.

Self-interest is almost always couched in terms of public interest, but the reason behind public policy is rarely what’s explained by those promoting it. We’re probably barking up the wrong environmental tree focusing on air travel anyway since streaming online porn “generates as much CO2 per year as is emitted by countries such as Belgium, Bangladesh and Nigeria.”

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. I wonder if the minimum price would come in the form of additional tax or just more money for the airline? And if the intent is to curb demand or to pay for some kind of an offset effort?

  2. You are all missing the point. The end goal is to do away with commercial flying for the general public. See what happens with the Amsterdam Schiphol airport if you’re not convinced.

  3. Gary
    Very well presented. Clearly this is Air France and Green corporate beneficiaries greasing the government officials to pass legislation to guarantee them higher profits. Very sad for france
    Meanwhile the private jet owners of course continue to rule

  4. Ah, price controls…socialists favorite way to destroy wealth, benefiting a few while hurting the majority, while still acting self righteous about “protecting the people”. Price controls,like all other denials or distortions of the free market, never work as intended. Learn a new trick, bozos.

  5. The logic of your argument is that market forces will address any problem — environmental or other. The fact is that airline flying produces externalities not captured in the price of the airfare. The solutions to addressing such market failures include attempting to add the cost of the pollution — and in this case, existential pollution — to the transaction. Clearly, a $10 Euro fare won’t capture the cost of that externality.

    The economic analysis is further faulty. Any change from the status quo will have winners and losers — here the winners are the inhabitants of the planet. Raising the cost of airfare will make other forms of transportation more competititive. Train travel produces far less dangerous pollution than flying. Environmental protection creates winners and losers — prohibiting factories from dumping toxic chemicals into rivers increases the cost of operation to to those busiensses, but the overall benefit to society dwarfs that business cost and makes price better reflect the costs of production.

    Further, you assume that a complaint about low prices that don’t reflect the cost of externalities means a minimum fare as opposed to, say, a tax on all transactions — that approach would not disadvantage low-cost carriers, but raise the price of all air travel to better reflect the costs on the envirnonment.

    Finally, the whataboutism at the end is simply nihilistic — why do anything if it doesn’t 100% solve the problem?

  6. @Birny – “The logic of your argument is that market forces will address any problem — environmental or other.”

    No, the logic is that environmentalism is being used as a cloak for big business interests here, and may be counterproductive towards environmental aims.

  7. Gary you may well be right. But let’s not kid ourselves. The eco-zealots would love to shutdown a lot air travel, unless it’s their pirate jets. Look no further than our own John Forbes Kerry. It’s a crisis you know.

  8. So if you want to transition certain types of travel — domestic travel within a county with a solid train system that can get you most places in a similar or slightly greater amount of time than flying — that is far less polluting, what do you do? Shut down porn sites? You’ve offered no evidence that increasing the cost of short distance air travel will benefit air france and harm competitors. Air france will continue to offer a basic fare to match the no frills fares of low cost carriers. Air France may be harmed more than low-cost carriers since AF is a network carrier and relies upon network feed that may be reduced, while the low-cost carriers are point to point..

    All of your alleged environmental harms are non-sequiturs. You assume low-cost carriers passenger traffic will be reduced — without evidence — and that all that business will move to Air France business class or half full planes — instead of short distance travel moving to trains and fewer flights to reflect reduced demand.

    Further, even if we assume, as you did, that the approach will be a minimum price — there is no basis to believe that low-cost carriers won’t respond with product enhancements even if the same price as AF. Your analysis assumes static business models with no response by carriers.

    I take your point about government largess going to politically connected, but that isn’t a catch-all criticism of anything government tries to do.

  9. It’s very different from the Tru Mp tariffs, which increased consumer costs (hello, inflation?) to achieve a policy goal.

  10. Who are Ultra Low Cost airlines and how much is ultra low cost and how often it is available?
    Ryanair, Eastjet and Wizzair are Ultra Low Comfort airlines.

  11. @Jake When your manufacturing base has been hallowed out due to offshoring/free trade and you can’t produce basic PPE during the start of a global pandemic, you need to incentivize manufacturers to produce in the US verse sub contracting out to the lowest cost provider. A tariff that causes companies to manufacture in the US while paying a decent wage to American workers is a benefit and reballances our economy from being dependent on the service sector.

  12. Ah, an idea so stupid, it sounds like something the Democrats in the US would come up with…politics is politics…let’s destroy competition to prevent the ability for more efficient companies to enter the market to guarantee the fat pockets of your political cronies…

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