Rescues of what type? On foot? Maybe. I spent a long time in the Massif in the 70's. Very early on we were advised by locals to buy rescue insurance. The CAF office was the first stop in Cham for those in the know. I remember it went from about fifty to eighty USD over my time there. We were absolutely aware of French rescue costs. Things must have changed significantly. They did not say heli rescue just rescue. Also seeing helo rescues of climbers was an almost daily event not isolated at all. As a matter of fact the obit notices were posted on the Place de l'Eglise wall outside the meteo after every big weather event and the helos operated nonstop at times. The PGHM also did body evacs with the body bagged outside the bird in plain sight. Hard to miss. Then at Snells or the Biolet or the Midi pherique camping the PGHM or Gendarmerie would come in and pack up the deceased's gear. We saw this a lot. Things really must have changed. It took me awhile to ignore the helos or I never would have climbed there. They were a constant reminder of the seriousness of the sport we were involved in.
In '77 I think, not sure, there was a very tragic accident on the NF Tour Rond. The top party fell off and swept several parties below into the schrund. All were killed. It was a landmark case in France because for the first time ever a suit was brought by the families to recoup rescue costs and get money from to top group's family. Liability. It was thrown out if I remember correctly.
The article (in French) says Kilian and partner were rescued on foot (PGHM walked down from the Aiguille du Midi tram's top station).
Mountaineering-related rescues represent about 20% of all rescues in the summer and 10% of non ski area related rescues in the winter. My "relatively low" statement was certainly unclear. I should have written "far from the majority of all rescues".
A lot of the helicopters/planes buzzing around both sides of Chamonix these days are sightseeing and not rescue related.
The pitches just below the top of the spur are steeper ice than the famous fin of snow leading up to the Rognon. Wouldn't have wanted approach shoes in the conditions I saw (which, I take it, were pretty typical). I mean, it's low angle ice for ice climbing; but, on the other hand, it's pretty freaking steep ice for "approach-shoeing"!
Glad they are safe. Agree with Donini that people can go for it however they wish, and also that they should not expect or depend on rescues. Also agree that people should try to be "responsible" when their actions might put others at risk (e.g., SAR, though in this case that's not really an issue).
The rescue from your link happened in Italy (Aosta Valley). The Valdotain SAR function as the article states, charging for a rescue if in a non life threatening situation (does not mean the rescued party has to be injured just that injury or death is a real possibility if not rescued).
There is indeed a current debate in France and in the French Alps especially as to whether or not to charge for "unnecessary rescues," but as of now people who are rescued are not billed.
French Alpine Club (CAF) is not expensive, roughly 25 € per year, but only available to members at this price.
This insurance covers rescues in other European countries as well as any treatment or care related to an accident.