The counter-attack on air transport in the face of the ban on French domestic air links in the event of an alternative transport in less than 2h30, seems to be bearing fruit. The Congress of the Union of French Airports (UAF) was an opportunity to take stock of the latest developments in progress, starting with the impact of the complaints filed a year ago with the European Commission by the UAF and the European branch of the Airports Council International (ACI Europe), then by the Union of Autonomous Airlines (Scara). Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe, brought the latest developments from Brussels. This measure, enacted as part of the Climate and Resilience Law in 2021 and decried by both airports and airlines, could soon be revised. Although it has remained fairly discreet on the subject, the European Commission has thus led “a lot of negotiations with the French authorities on the subject on the basis of these complaints”, according to Olivier Jankovec. This work should lead to the implementation of a new version of the implementing decree presented by the French authorities. The first had not been validated, Brussels having expressed doubts about the compatibility of the French text with European legislation.
A new decision expected
“We are very close today to a new decision by the European Commission on a text revised by France”believes the Director General of ACI Europe, who speaks of a “very important decision”. This could occur as early as the first week of December. The main change would thus be to limit this measure in time to a maximum of three years, more in line with Community law. “The European regulation which allows this type of measure to be taken is very clear, it can only be temporary measures”comments Olivier Jankovec.
This development has yet to be confirmed, as airport representatives have obviously not yet had direct access to the new version from the French authorities. The boss of ACI Europe seems in any case impatient to read it and warns that he retains the right, with the UAF, to contest it if it does not prove to be satisfactory.
In the spans of the UAF congress, concerns have already been heard about the real scope of this new text. Above all, this could call into question the protection of connecting traffic. So far, lines with more than 50% of connecting passengers on another flight are not affected by the ban. The measure thus affects only four lines so far – Orly-Lyon, Orly-Nantes, Orly-Bordeaux and Lyon-Marseille – while service to the Roissy hub from the regions is preserved. If this principle on connections falls, Roissy would be housed in the same boat as Orly. Its geographical location in the north of Île-de-France would nevertheless limit its exposure.
Bordeaux on the front line
The decision of Brussels should be particularly scrutinized on the side of the Gironde, Alain Anziani, president of Bordeaux Métropole and mayor of Mérignac, and Patrick Seguin, his counterpart at the CCI Bordeaux Gironde, having written to Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on this subject, as La Tribune explained two weeks ago. They demanded the return of the Bordeaux-Orly shuttle which transported 560,000 annual passengers before the Covid crisis, also pointing to the weakness of the SNCF TGV offer on the line.
This summer, the National Federation of New-Aquitaine Transport User Associations thus pointed to a drop in the number of trains offered compared to 2019. For its part, the SNCF denies any reduction and claims to have increased its offer by 2% over the year, with an increase of 9% from mid-December.
The prohibition laid down by the Climate and Resilience Law is normally permitted under Article 20 of European Regulation EC No. 1008-2008, “when there are serious environmental problems”. When filing their respective complaints, the UAF and the Scara also denounced the absence of a sufficiently substantial impact study to justify this recourse to Article 20, relying for this on an advisory opinion of the Council of State, reporting “significant shortcomings of the impact study with regard to certain measures of the bill”.
Olivier Jankovec also recalled another argument put forward against this measure, namely the lack of certainty on “the effectiveness and proportionality of the measure”. According to calculations made by the UAF and ACI Europe, the four lines affected by this measure represent only 0.24% of CO2 emissions from French domestic air transport. Last year, Thomas June, president of the UAF, specified that this corresponded to 0.04% of transport emissions in France. In view of these figures, “that doesn’t make much sense” for Olivier Jankovec, who recalls that the Climate and Resilience Law imposes the compensation of CO2 emissions from metropolitan domestic flights up to 50% in 2022 and 100% in 2024.