The European Commission has okayed a limited version of a French law banning domestic flights on routes with feasible rail alternatives, dismissing complaints about its anti-competitive nature.

The French parliament adopted the law in August 2021. Due to environmental reasons, the country's government hoped to force a modal shift to much more environment-friendly railways by prohibiting air services on all routes where "several" daily direct high-speed train connections that take less than 2.5 hours already exist.

On June 21, 2022, Paris clarified that under the revised scope, the ban would cover only three routes: from Paris Orly to each of Bordeaux, Nantes, and Lyon St. Exupéry. A further three routes - from Paris CDG to Rennes and Lyon, and from Lyon to Marseilles - would also be banned subject to an improvement in rail services, particularly the launch of new early morning and late evening connections allowing passengers to reach their morning and evening connecting banks. In turn, trunk services from CDG to Bordeaux and Nantes, which were also listed in the initial proposal, will be excluded as rail connections take more than 3 hours.

The European Commission took issue with the initial proposal that would provide a derogation for services with a high share of connecting passengers, even if they were operated on the banned routes. However, France withdrew this proposal during the course of deliberations, thereby addressing the EC's competitive impact concerns.

"The criteria used for the ban in the Final Draft Decree are based on the length of the train connections and frequency and suitability of timings, and, hence, are objective in nature... As no air services will be exempted from the prohibition, the measure does not lead to discrimination on grounds of nationality, identity or business model of an air carrier, nor does it give rise to distortion of competition between air carriers," the EU regulator said.

Brussels agreed that reducing greenhouse gas emissions justified these policy restrictions. This measure will be valid for three years and will be re-evaluated thereafter.

The ch-aviation schedules module shows that there are currently no scheduled services on any of the three banned routes. On the other hand, the Paris CDG-Lyon, Paris CDG-Rennes, and Lyon-Marseille routes, which could be banned subject to rail improvements, are served by Air France. Corsair International also flies 2x weekly between Lyon and Marseille.