France is banning short-haul domestic flights when there is a rail alternative that takes less than two and a half hours.
The ban, which has been greenlit by Brussels, will put an end to flights between Paris Orly Airport and the cities of Nantes, Bordeaux, and Lyon.
The final number of axed flights stops short of the eight routes French lawmakers had proposed to cut.
The European Commission, which was given the final say on the law, decided the ban could only take place on routes that offered several direct connections in each direction every day.
If rail services improve, three more routes could be added - between Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and Lyon and Rennes, and between Lyon and Marseille.
“This is a major step forward and I am proud that France is a pioneer in this area,” Clément BeauneFrance’s transport minister, said in an emailed statement following the commission’s approval of the measure.
Climate activists and Green party politicians similarly welcomed the ban, but said it was a “baby step” in the larger fight against climate change and reducing carbon dioxide emissions in Europe.
“The French ban on short-haul flights where quick train connections exist is a baby step, but it’s one in the right direction,” said Thomas Gelin, Greenpeace’s EU climate campaigner.
Karima Delli, a French Green MEP, applauded the commission’s decision as a “victory”, but said the legislation should have been extended to cover flights that could be replaced by a four-hour train journey.
It will still take several months for the ban to come into force.
Some European lawmakers hope the law will expand to routes across the continent as new high-speed rail lines, as part of the EU’s TEN-T project, are being constructed.
While the current rail journey between Paris and Milan, for example, takes more than 7 hours, the opening of the new 36-mile-long Mont Cenis Base Tunnel will cut the journey time in half.