On February 2, the French Conseil d'Etat ruled against French airports challenging the ban on air links where a rail alternative exists in less than 2 hours 30 minutes, the court announced.
The ban on air links when there is a rail alternative in less than 2 h 30, which came into force on May 23, 2023 with the publication of a decree implementing the Climate and Resilience Act, had already been anticipated. Paris-Orly airport has thus discontinued connections to Nantes, Bordeaux and Lyon.
A contested ban
Although the ban does not apply to connecting flights, it was contested by the Union of French Airports (UAF), which lodged an appeal for "excess of power" against the decree.
It considers that the law infringes entrepreneurial freedom, and is calling for its annulment, as well as a referral to the European Court of Justice. According to the airports, the text is incompatible with EU regulations.
According to the Conseil d'Etat, "it has not been established by the information in the file that it [the ban, editor's note] would cause a distortion of competition between air carriers on the routes concerned, especially as its period of validity is limited to 3 years, at the end of which it will be re-examined after evaluation".
Ecological effects deemed minimal
UAF argued that the measure's impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions would be minimal.
However, according to the Conseil d'État, "it is likely to contribute in the short term to reducing emissions from air transport, and cannot be regarded as more restrictive than necessary in view of the stakes involved in combating climate change".
A disappointing decision for airports
As a result, UAF "has no grounds for seeking the annulment of the decree it is attacking on the grounds of excess of power", according to the court, which also refused to refer the matter to European justice and ordered the organization to pay 3,000 euros to cover legal costs.
While the Conseil d'Etat's decision comes as no surprise to UAF, it is nonetheless a "disappointment", declared Nicolas Paulissen, UAF's General Delegate, referring in particular to the refusal to refer the case to the European courts.
"We would have liked the European judge to have been able to rule" on France's recourse to article 20 of the European regulation on air services, he explained.
3 years to judge the effectiveness of the measure
It provides that a Member State may, "where there are serious environmental problems (...), limit or refuse the exercise of traffic rights", but stipulates that such measures must not distort competition and must not exceed 3 years.
UAF "looks forward to seeing you at the end of the three-year period", promised the General Delegate, pointing out that UAF "remains of the view (...) that removing domestic routes in this way is not the solution to reducing emissions".
L’Antenne, avec l’AFP