German chancellor candidates target cheap flights over climate concerns
As Germany’s election year campaigning heats up, political leaders hoping to succeed chancellor Angela Merkel are taking aim at cheap flights and domestic air travel as they seek to make climate policy a fundamental part of their political agendas, Tagesspiegel reports. The Green Party’s Annalena Baerbock and rival Olaf Scholz of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) have both come out against cheap flights, which have often resulted from airline price wars. Baerbock told Bild am Sonntag that she would fight to ban short-haul flights as well as discount offers such as 29 euro flights to the Spanish island of Mallorca. “Everyone can go on vacation wherever they want,” Baerbock said. “But climate-friendly taxation of flights would stop such dumping prices." It is not fair that aviation fuel is subsidised with taxpayer money while long-distance train travel remains expensive, especially at peak times, she added. "If you travel as a family by train, you should pay less than for a short flight. And yes, short-haul flights should no longer exist in the future.”
Scholz similarly told German broadcaster ProSieben that if elected chancellor he would take action against cheap flights, adding that a lower price limit for flights was being explored. "No flight can be cheaper than the airport charges and all other charges that arise for it," he said. While noting that further regulations are legally difficult, Scholz said there would certainly not be flights costing less than 50 or 60 euros.
While there have also been calls from the Left Party for higher fuel taxes for inland flights, Ulrich Lange of the Christian Social Union (CSU), part of Merkel’s conservative CDU-CSU alliance, rejected the idea. “It is clear that air traffic has to make its contribution to climate protection,” Lange told RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland. “A ban on short-haul flights and massive price increases in air traffic are the wrong approach.” Energy state secretary and government tourism spokesperson Thomas Bareiß (CDU) said that "climate protection should not be pursued at the expense of low-income families' holidays". "I think that travelling and flying must continue to be possible for every wallet in the future and not become a luxury for a few," he said.
On September 26, German voters head to the polls to elect a new federal parliament. The Green Party has been leading the polls recently, thereby surpassing the conservative bloc CDU/CSU and being trailed by the Social Democrats (SPD) in the third place.