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Will Spain ban short-haul domestic flights like France has?

At the end of May, France formalised a ban on domestic flights for journeys possible in less than two-and-a-half hours by train, but will the same happen in Spain?

Will Spain ban short-haul domestic flights like France has?
Will Spain ban short domestic flights? Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

In practice, it the plan to ban short domestic flights in France was already largely in effect, but on May 23rd, it was published in a government decree.

The change means that flights between Paris and regional hubs such as Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux, will officially be banned, but flights that have onward connections will be unaffected.

READ ALSO: Why are flights to and from Spain so expensive this summer?

Could Spain pass similar legislation and ban short domestic flights?

According to research carried out by scientists at the University of Manchester in the UK, short-haul flights are the main cause of aviation emissions in Europe.  

Eliminating short-haul European flights (less than 500 kilometres) would drastically reduce aviation emissions, which account for six percent of total greenhouse gases. It would be a “good measure” in the fight against climate change, according to the researchers.

Because of the damage to the environment and the substantial emissions from short-haul flights, the Spanish government actually proposed a very similar plan in 2021, banning flights with rail alternatives that would take less than two and a half hours.

READ ALSO – Train travel from Spain to France: Everything you need to know

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s 2050 Agenda, also included this plan. According to government calculations, eliminating short-haul flights would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to two million tons.

“It is recommended that flights be prohibited on those routes that can be made by train in less than 2.5 hours,” the plan stated.  

This would directly affect the routes between Madrid and Barcelona, operated by airlines such as Iberia, Air Europa or Vueling. It would also affect flights between Madrid and the hubs of Valencia, Alicante, Seville and Málaga.  

In fact, experts have calculated that prohibiting short domestic flights in Spain would make one in five flight routes disappear.  

Nothing, however, has been put in place for the immediate future. When questioned about this, the Ministry of Transport said that the transfer of passengers from the air sector to the rail sector had already taken place “in a natural way” and that the high-speed network covers “a large part of the main domestic links”.

READ ALSO: The Spanish cities that will be most affected by rising sea levels

Potential problems 

But, while France has an extensive network of high-speed rail, some parts of Spain are lacking in this department, including Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha and Extremadura.  

In these regions, trains run infrequently on underused tracks, sometimes running at 30 kilometres per hour and experience constant breakdowns.

While there has been a lot of investment and more high-speed rail operators running between some of Spain’s major cities, with the introduction of Iryo, Avlo and Ouigo, in so-called empty Spain, there has been a lack of investment that has caused great political disputes.  

Reactions 

The government proposal sparked an angry protest from the Airlines Association (ALA).

Faced with the possibility of a ban or the introduction of a fee for travellers on domestic flights, the ALA warned about the “devastating” impact that any of these measures would have on the airline sector, as well as on tourism and, consequently, on employment and the country’s economy.

Banning flights of less than 500 kilometres or less than two and a half hours would mean stopping flights from almost any point on the peninsula to Madrid, they argued.  

According to the ALA, travellers would have to stop flying to other continents through Madrid, and would have to go to other European cities like Paris, London, Frankfurt or Rome.

The result would be the same amount of CO2 emissions, but Madrid would be seriously affected.

However, in France, the measure does not affect onward connecting flights, like Nantes via Paris to Stockholm, so the same could be applied to Spain.  

With climate change increasingly affecting Spain including above-average temperatures, droughts, wildfires and flash flooding, the Spanish government could very well decide to bring the domestic flight ban proposal to the forefront of discussions once again.

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WEATHER

Heatwave shatters October temperature records across Spain

Temperatures in at least 90 towns and cities in Spain have hit record highs for October with the unseasonable heat likely to last over a week, the country's AEMET weather agency has warned.

Heatwave shatters October temperature records across Spain

High temperatures across Spain resulted in three “record days of heat” that began on Friday with the mercury peaking on Sunday at 38.2 degrees Celsius (100.7 Fahrenheit) in the southern town of Montoro near Córdoba, it said.

The previous October record was set in 2014, when the mercury hit 37.5C in the southern town of Marbella.

Lugo, Ourense, Soria, Burgos, Valladolid, Ávila, Segovia, Salamanca, Zamora, Getafe, Toledo, Cáceres, Ciudad Real, Jaén, Córdoba, Granada, Sevilla, Cuenca, Teruel, Pamplona, Zaragoza and Lleida were among the cities where record temperatures for October have been set in the first two days of the month.

Spain’s capital also recorded its highest October temperature – 33C at Madrid’s Barajas Airport.

“On October 1st, it reached an all-time high for this time of year in practically the entire Iberian Peninsula,” it said on X, formerly Twitter, saying that nearly 40 percent of its weather stations had registered a temperature of 32C or higher.

The situation was similar on Monday, with the southern city of Seville reaching 38.1C, AEMET figures showed.

“But the most extraordinary thing is that there are still quite a few unseasonably warm days left: we could have up to 10 more days of record heat,” it said.

Although it has become accustomed to soaring summer temperatures, notably in the south, Spain has experienced an uptick in longer and hotter heatwaves, experts say.

Spain, which had its hottest year on record in 2022, has been in the grip of successive heatwaves this year which got off to an unusually early start in April, exacerbating an ongoing drought.

Experts say the recurring heatwaves, which have been getting longer and more intense, are a consequence of climate change.

The Iberian Peninsula is bearing the brunt of climate change in Europe, with droughts and wildfires becoming more and more common.

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