Spain is the latest country to ban short-haul flights—but it won’t be the last

“For most travelers, the impact of this is probably very low,” Seth Miller, an industry analyst and founder of aviation site PaxEx.Aero, told AFAR. “In many cases, airlines are keeping flights in place even on the shorter routes to handle connecting traffic for passengers coming in from overseas. But if you are planning a multicity trip once you’re in Spain and France, you may find yourself with fewer options to get between the cities once you’re there. Personally, I think it’s okay, though, because the trains are generally a more pleasant experience.”

Last year, after France first announced the ban, airlines lobbied to overturn it on the grounds that it violated the European Union’s freedom of movement. However, the EU upheld the ban. The actual environmental impact of the ban has been called into question however, with both airline lobbyists and environmental activist groups saying its sustainability merit is mediocre at best.

“If we banned all flights of less than 500 kilometers in Europe … it would be less than 4 percent of the CO2 in Europe, right?” Willie Walsh, head of the International Air Transport Association, told Reuters at the time. “I think there’s a perception that it would be 80 percent. It’s not a solution.”

A Greenpeace campaigner told Reuters the ban was “hypocritical” and would have “no impact.” “They had a strong push to reduce the ambition,” Sarah Fayolle told the news agency. Supporters wanted a ban on flights that could be replaced by train journeys of four to six hours or less.

It’s not yet clear when Spain will implement its flight ban, and it also remains to be seen whether private jets will be restricted. But other European countries are also working on ways to decrease air travel.Austria, for example, offered a pandemic bail out to Austria Airlines in 2020 only on the condition that it would nix flights that could be replaced by a rail in under three hours, and it debuted a tax of €30 on flights under 350 kilometers, and Belgium started tacking on a €10 fee for flights from Brussels airport under 500 kilometers.

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