France’s Transport Minister Clément Beaune has a strong view about low-cost airlines. Minister Beaune wants to put a price floor under commercial aviation in the European Union to subsidize trains.
“The plane costs less than the train”
According to the Daily Express, Beaune recently has fumigated in the French press that:
“Many people tell us that they are shocked that, often, the plane costs less than the train. We need more investments in the railway.”
Already, the minister promises more French taxes on commercial aviation to fund rail transport – and the taxes are planned to not be on economy class. Plus, French authorities are working with the Germans to have a high-speed rail corridor from France’s Paris to Germany’s Berlin – and if Robb Report is correct, in just seven hours. Finally, the minister has made no secret of being politically ambitious, intending to run for Mayor of Paris and possibly hold national office someday.
Minister of Contradiction perhaps?
According to Euroweekly News translated from Beaune’s interview with “L’Obs, Minister Beaune, on the one hand, laments:
‘Plane tickets at €10 at the time of the ecological transition are no longer possible’, since they do not ‘reflect the price for the planet’.
Beaune has also said he wants to work within the European Union, according to multiple sources to, “fight against social and environmental dumping”. Yet, according to The Limited Times, Beaune is quoted as saying,
I do not believe at all in the restriction of mobility.
Beaune is also against any conversation about a lifetime cap on air travel. This is even though the statistics show that a relatively small number of air travelers make a large majority of the trips. Furthermore, the French attempt to limit short-haul flights ended up being a dud, as connecting flights are unaffected by the new laws.
Hence, skepticism from the environmental community. As Jon Worth, travel expert and founder of the Trains for Europe campaign, shared with Euronews:
“We should be dealing with frequent flyers and this does not deal with them. It might reduce nice city weekends for some people but it’s not going to stop or reduce this regular flying elite.”
Furthermore, the British private citizen climate action group Possible has repeatedly called for a frequent flyer levy. It said:
In the UK, 15% of people take 70% of all flights, while nearly 50% of the population do not fly at all in a given year. … Just as there is a risk of too much air travel breaking the carbon budget, there is also a risk that the choice of policy design puts air travel out of reach for many.
Another place skepticism is based with more of a free market take is that, as Tony Renucci, director of the Respire association shared with Franceinfo:
“If we want people to take the train instead of the plane, we have to lower the price of train tickets.”
In other words, raising the cost of low-fare flights would not induce train use. Furthermore, the biggest cause of emissions in the 2020s is the personal automobile.
Worth is also concerned about effectiveness. As he shared with euronews.
The international publicity of France’s short flight ban was huge. It was useless! But it gave Macron good international publicity, I am scared Beaune is doing the same thing. That the actual implementation will have the same impact.
Nonetheless, there is blowback to such policy proposals.
For Ryanair, an airline that has a business model based upon low-cost airfare, the news of Beaune’s aspirations has caused notable consternation. Edward Wilson, the current CEO of Ryanair even said,
“I think that [plane ticket] price controls are worthy of North Korea’s economy.”
For those who don’t know, North Korea is a totalitarian hereditary dictatorship that runs its economy through central planning. In other words, the government sets prices, and there are few markets in the country.
Ryanair, based in Ireland, has a clear business model based on providing the lowest price to the customer, thereby making aviation available to more people versus, say, some of the European flag carriers that prefer offering upscale travel.
Aviation subject of climate action already
For those who think that commercial aviation is bad for the planet, let’s remember that aviation is only 2.8% of emissions globally, according to the World Economic Forum in a May 31, 2023 report lamenting the low uptake of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Yet, as Simple Flying does report, there are many global attempts to decrease emissions and make commercial aviation more sustainable. In fact, the European Union recently mandated SAF blending with traditional jet fuel by 2025.
Again, as Beaune said in The Limited Times:
“We need young people to do mathematics, chemistry, and help us find the technical progress that makes air transport bearable.”
Clearly with SAF, this is the case today. Furthermore, there are plans in the works to finance the rapid growth of SAF in France, as announced at the 2023 Paris Air Show.
Since it appears the Macron Administration is in search of quick fixes to complex climate and economic justice issues, this quote from journalist, open government campaigner, and philosopher Heather “Newsbrooke” Brooke, Ph.D. seems appropriate.
“We seek a saviour, someone to rescue us from the problems of the world. A saviour is the simple story, the easy option and that is why it is so compelling. You don’t have to do anything except believe. There’s no need to negotiate with other people, or figure out how to create a robust system within the bizarre and contradictory parameters of human nature.
Perhaps Minister Beaune should think about this for a while before picking on those who can only afford low-cost airfare. Or realize the world is complex and market-based.
Source: simple flying