In a bid to make travel more ecofriendly, many are adapting a whole new ‘train of thought’.
Dutch airline KLM is going to partner with European train companies Thalys and NS to, in lieu of a schedule of five daily flights between Amsterdam and Brussels, substituting one with a high-speed rail service.
In addition, Austrian Airlines is hosting “AIRail”, another terrestrial service administered in partnership — or codeshare, in ‘plane speak’ — with that nation’s rail operator ÖOB. In Germany, Lufthansa is joining forces with train network Deutsche Bahn.
Aside from being ecofriendly, this move is economic. Whenever plane rides are replaced by train rides, landing and departure slots at busy airports that can be freed up to facilitate long-haul services.
Train specialist Mark Smith, founder of the rail route encyclopedia The Man in Seat 61, says that the idea of choosing ecofriendly travel options offers public relations and commercial appeal for airlines.
KLM says that the change in their travel schedule is indeed intended as a move toward sustainability. And by doing so, KLM plans to contribute to the Dutch air transport sector’s mission to reduce C02 emissions by 35% by the year 2030 and reduce its carbon footprint.
Along these same lines, statistics suggest an increased interest in train travel.
In the UK, Virgin Trains, which has run the nation’s West Coast railway line for the last 20 years, says that the number of passengers going between London and Glasgow elevated to achieve a record 29% in 2019.
Considering the fact that travel time on this 400-mile route is 4.5 hours via train and about 1 hour 15 minutes by air (in addition to connection times), and the prices are comparable, the two forms of transport boast some similarities.
Also to consider is the recent Swedish “Flygskam” or “flight shame” movement that favours rail travel over short flights.
But will world travel really undergo a massive transformation overall?
Mark Smith says probably not, although airlines might opt for more extended long-haul schedules.
Codeshare contracts with train companies also give airlines a new foothold in the transportation market. For customers, they will be able to use air miles on the ground!
Ah, but what is travel like on an air-rail codeshare?
Well it will vary by service.
Aboard the Amsterdam-Brussels trains, KLM promises speed, reliability and comfort, with smooth connections.
Austrian Airlines’ AIRail service will employ the use of ÖBB trains between Vienna and Linz, operating with designated flight numbers. Customers will receive food vouchers to be spent in the train eatery, while business class passengers can visit ÖBB Lounges at Linz and Salzburg Central Station.
This service started in 2014 and is now a characteristic of trans-European travel.
Austrian Airlines canceled flight service between Vienna and Linz, due to the success of the rail schedule.
Along similar lines, Air France collaborated with French rail company SNCF on high speed services between Paris and Brussels.
Via this swift service, clocking in at about 80 minutes, Air France buys a block of seats and administers them in the form of an airplane cabin, with bags checked pre-journey and given back to passengers at the point of destination.
The service supplies the full Air France experience, says airline spokesman Patrice Tétard, but on rails.
In Germany, Lufthansa eliminated its Frankfurt to Cologne short-haul because of its prosperous codeshare alliance with Deutsche Bahn, in which passengers journey across the German countryside in reserved compartments. And in the United States, Virgin is investing money in a high-speed rail project in Florida.
At the heart of all of these routes is customer alternatives—all the while maintaining the speed of the trips, and easy accessibility to rail systems. The level of service must be equal with both routes. And, whether flying or railing across the planet, the health of that planet must be protected and preserved.