France offers some of Europe’s cheapest flights, but with the government pressing for a minimum base fare to incentivise clean travel, flying may only be available to the rich. Olivia Palamountain reports

French Transport Minister Clément Beaune has announced plans to propose a minimum price for airfare in Europe to “counter social and environmental dumping”, in line with growing efforts to reduce the climate impact of cheap, short-haul flights.

Beaune told French magazine L’Obs that deeply discounted flights for as low as €10 should end, as they fail to account for the high carbon emissions of air travel amid efforts to fight climate change. He implied certain low-cost carriers offer tickets below the true cost of flights.

The proposal follows France’s pledge to hike taxes on plane tickets to fund cleaner transportation options such as rail travel. The country’s 2024 budget also eyes added levies on motorways and air travel.

With journeys by train taking much longer than flying, combined with the fact that they are typically between two and four times more expensive than flights in Europe, consumers will continue to choose air travel over rail travel in spite of global warming.

A new report from Greenpeace reveals that taking the train costs four times more than flying from the UK to Europe, meaning there is no financial incentive for consumers to make more sustainable travel decisions. Read Globetrender’s full report here.

What’s more, if budget flights are scrapped, does this signal a renaissance of air travel privilege, with flying reserved only for the rich?

As reported by Connexion France, France’s transport users association, the Fédération nationale des associations d’usagers des transports (FNAUT), responded to Mr Beaune’s comments in an interview with news website FranceInfo.

Bruno Gazeau, president of the FNAUT, said the economic railway, road and aeroplane models must “absolutely be made coherent”.

“If we want a policy which considers climate change, it is imperative that the various grants and tax relief systems given do not make planes systematically cheaper than the train,” he added.