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Confirmed: Spain to ban short-haul domestic flights

The Local Spain
The Local Spain - [email protected]
Confirmed: Spain to ban short-haul domestic flights
Spain's short-haul domestic flights to be cancelled. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Spain’s ruling parties, PSOE and Sumar, have agreed to reduce domestic flights on routes that have a rail alternative lasting less than two and a half hours, in order to reduce carbon emissions.

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The proposal from Sumar was discussed at the Congressional Ecological Transition Commission where the government agreed to “promote the reduction of domestic flights when there are rail alternatives of less than two and a half hours, and as long as they are not connected to airports that link with international routes". 

The initial draft of Sumar leader Yolanda Díaz's proposal called for removing flights with a train alternative of up to three hours, but it has now been reduced to two and a half hours.

The text agreed upon between PSOE and Sumar also seeks to analyse the directive that is being prepared within the scope of the European Commission on the taxation of energy products and to look into European initiatives related to the restriction of private jets.

The agreement on the restriction of short flights signed by the government states that it cannot be carried out if it negatively affects tourism and if it is not guaranteed that there is a railway network "that is on par".

The PSOE deputy for Barcelona Arnau Ramírez praised the deal promoting the use of more sustainable transportation but has made it clear that he won’t do "anything" that affects Spanish tourism or destinations such as the Balearic and Canary Islands, where people are "very dependent" on air transport.

READ ALSO: The domestic flights in Spain that could be cancelled to reduce emissions

Both right-wing parties, Vox and the PP, have rejected the agreement. PP member Guillermo Mariscal explained that he considers the initiative "ineffective" because it would only mean a 0.06 percent reduction in emissions, according to data from the College of Aircraft Engineers.

He also criticised Sumar for proposing the initiative, without considering the economic impact. "It is outrageous" and could mean a reduction of 4.5 million tourists per year, he claimed.

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According to government calculations conducted end of 2023, however, eliminating short-haul flights would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to two million tonnes.

Back in October 2023, a study by the eco confederation Ecologistas en Acción found that around 35 percent of domestic flights in Spain could be cancelled, replacing them with high-speed trains and reducing emissions by around 10 percent.

It is not yet clear exactly which routes will be affected as the report by Ecologistas en Acción focused mainly on flights to and from Madrid, which are now unlikely to be included in the ban because of its international airport.

It is also not yet known when the ban will come into force as it is likely it will go through various stages of proposed amendments before being approved by the Senate and then finally being published in the Official State Bulletin or BOE, before it becomes law. 

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Between 2013 and 2019, domestic air operations in Spain increased by 27 percent, a figure much higher than that of European neighbours such as Germany, France and the UK, which maintained or reduced them by up to 8 percent.

Back in May 2023, the French government also officially banned domestic flights for journeys possible in less than two-and-a-half hours by train.

Spain's left-wing coalition government has been considering the proposal of cancelling short-haul flights since 2021, as part of its Spain 2050 climate action plan.

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