There’s an Air France ad making the rounds at the moment with the slogan ‘France is in the Air’. Catching sight of it on the side of a newspaper stand this week, I considered the sad irony of that phrase. The thing is, France hasn’t had much luck in the air recently- not that this has anything to do with Air France, of course.
This month began with the helicopter crash in Argentina that killed ten people, including three well-known names from the world of French sport, and ended with the Germanwings crash in the French Alps, which continues to dominate news headlines all over the world.
Naturally, people here have been affected by both events- what else would you expect? And last week another air-related issue made headlines. Nowhere near as tragic as the two crashes, it nevertheless pointed towards a serious underlying problem.
Due to dangerously high levels of pollution in the French capital, public transport charges were suspended for three days. And on Monday, a measure known as ‘circulation alternée‘ was enforced, meaning only certain vehicles were permitted in central Paris. It wasn’t the first time this had happened; circulation alternée was enforced on the 17th of March last year and, before that, in 1997.
“Been for a run, have you? You need to be careful!” My flatmate said to me. “There’s more pollution in Paris today than there is in Shanghai!” I heard that comparison being made a lot over the weekend. Of course, circulation alternée was only a quick fix. But it did serve as a poignant reminder of the problems that we don’t even notice most of the time.
In short, it’s not been a good week for French airspace. Somebody recently pointed out to me that between Charlie Hebdo, the Dropped crash in Argentina and now the Germanwings tragedy, France has been hit by a lot of bad news recently. It’s true; so far this year, I have often felt like I’m where everything is happening. But unfortunately, not in a good way.