On Friday June 16th, Belgium’s Federal Minister of Mobility, Georges Gilkinet, announced a desire to implement a total ban on domestic flights in the country. A royal decree draft to this effect will be presented to the regions, which are responsible for airports, as reported by Belga news agency.
“Every day, five aircraft take off from Belgium to land elsewhere in the country, covering very short distances, often less than 100 km”, Gilkinet said. “Flights which, proportionally, consume the most energy. An ecological absurdity, but also an economic nonsense.”
Every tenth of a degree of global warming avoided matters. It will enable us to prevent human tragedies.Georges Gilkinet, Belgium’s Federal Minister of Mobility
In 2022, no fewer than 402 flights were recorded between Brussels and Liège airports (85 km), 273 between Brussels and Charleroi (55 km), and 242 between Brussels and Antwerp (40 km). According to Belga, the number of such flights has increased from 1,713 in 2019 to 1,822 in 2022.
“It’s all the more relevant to ban these hopping flights as they are mainly operated by private jets, whose share is increasing,” Gilkinet said. “They accounted for 71% of intra-Belgian flights in 2022, compared with 55% in 2019.” The project provides for a few exceptions, for emergency and search missions, or in the event of exceptional weather conditions.
Some Flemish politicians have expressed some skepticism regarding Gilkine’s proposal. Sander Vandecapelle, member of the PVDA party in Flanders, argued that high-speed train connections ought to be put in place between Zaventem airport and other European capitals such as Amsterdam and Paris. “All major airports have high-speed train connectivity,” Vandecapelle told The Brussels Times. “Why not Zaventem?” According to aviation news outlet aviation24, the Flemish Minister of Mobility, Lydia Peeters, seemed to give priority to economic concerns rather than environmental ones as she saw in Gilkinet’s proposal a potential negative impact on the aviation sector and regional airports in Flanders.
For the time being, Gilkinet remained firm on his proposal. ”The scientists at the IPCC are clear”, he said. “Every tenth of a degree of global warming avoided matters and will enable us to prevent human tragedies and enormous economic costs. Our climate objectives (-55% carbon emissions by 2030, carbon neutrality by 2050) require the business world to change course, particularly in terms of transport.”
Domestic short-haul flights banned in France
On May 23rd of this year, France’s ban on short-haul domestic flights entered into force, the country’s Transport Minister Clément Beaune announced on twitter. The government decree banned any domestic flights where a train connection of less than two and a half hours exists. Only routes between Paris-Orly, Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux are currently foreseen in the decree.
The move was part of France’s 2021 Climate Law, but the legislation was initially contested by the country’s Union of Airports (UAF) and the European branch of the Airports Council International (ACI Europe), causing a referral to the European Commission, which gave the green light for the ban in December last year.
After the commission’s approval, the degree opened for public consultation, then it was subjected to the opinion of the Council of State. In addition to the short-haul flight ban, France is also working on heavily reducing private flights, since the country has the highest number of private jets in Europe, loaded by frequent trips between Paris and the French Riviera. Research by environmental campaign group Transport and Environment (T&E) found that ten percent of 2019 departures were by private jets and half of those were journeys of less than 300 miles.
Defending the new short-haul rules, transport minister Clément Beaune was reported as saying the country could no longer tolerate the super-rich using private planes while the public are making cutbacks to deal with the energy crisis and climate change. He said he was “proud that France is a pioneer in this area” and hailed the decision as “a major step forward in the policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”