Some policies are directly targeted to fix a problem, other policies maybe aimed at indicating a direction of travel. I think the measures in France to ban domestic flights on short routes is the later.
Internal routes that can be flown in less than two-and-a-half hours, are prohibited. That can be done because high-speed rail transport offers a means of connecting certain French cities.
The calculation being that greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by this control. There had been many calls for even stricter restrictions on flying in France. Lowering carbon emissions is a priority for many European governments. Sovereignty is primary in this respect. A State can take measures to control domestic flying much more readily than they can internationally. Connecting flights will not be changed by this new legislation.
High-speed trains do take passengers from airlines and take cars off the roads. Where a mature rail network exists, there are significant benefits in focusing on rail transport between cities. Often rail and air are complementary, with major high-speed rail stations at airports.
Given the rhetoric surrounding the “climate emergency” these restrictions are a modest measure that will make only a small difference to carbon emissions. The symbolism is significant. It’s a drive in a transport policy direction that may go further in time and other States may do the same.
Flying between Paris and Lyon doesn’t make much sense when a good alternative is available. Flying between London and Birmingham doesn’t make much sense either. However, changes like these need to be data-driven transformations. There needs to be a measure reduction in greenhouse gas emissions because of their implementation. For example, displacing travellers onto the roads would be a negative outcome.
The imperative of greenhouse gas emission reduction means creative and new measure will happen. It’s far better for aviation to adapt to this framework of operations rather than push back. The direction of travel is set.