Domestic flight ban
Short haul flights (often defined as those less than 700km or shorter than 5 hours, although definitions vary) have been found to be one of the most carbon-intensive forms of travel. Short haul flights are estimated to emit over 250 grams per kilometer, which is more than longer distance flights, due to the intense fuel useage during takeoff and landing. In 2020, domestic flights accounted for 22% of all air travel despite travel warnings due to the ongoing pandemic and the top 10 airport pairs (or journeys taken) were all domestic and 5/10 airport pairs were within French territories.
Domestic flights are incredibly carbon intensive and a ban on journeys that could feasibly taken by less emissions intensive modes of transportation would be a significant step forward in reducing emissions in passenger transport. Most proposals for bans on short haul flights focus on domestic connections, which tend to be most easily replaced by a train journey.
Austria has obliged Austrian Airlines to cut down on emissions and halt flights which may feasibly be replaced by a train journey three hours or under as part of an €600 million bailout following a massive drop in demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They have additionally added up to 30 train services per day between Vienna’s airport and Salzburg’s main station to facilitate air travel and cut down on domestic connections. Direct cooperation between the rail service and airlines eases concerns passengers may have about booking in case of delays or cancelled flights, and facilitates easy booking and rerouting, which is often challenging when discussing long distance multi-modal trips.
France has also passed a ban on short domestic flights which may be replaced with rail journeys under 2.5 hours. Although heralded by government leaders as an impactful step, this legislation would exclude the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle hub and would only affect 5 routes out of a total of 108 domestic flights currently offered. Estimates show that this would only decrease emissions from domestic flights by 6.6% and clearly show that action taken to ban domestic flights must be on a large scale to have the desired impact.
France has banned short domestic flights that can be feasibly replaced with rail journeys (under 2.5 hours). Revenues shall be spent on improving the railway system.
From train to plane
If international flights are needed, encouraging trips by train to the international airport would help cut down on emissions during the journey. Short haul flights are one of the most carbon intensive ways to travel, whereas rail is relatively efficient and much more environmentally friendly. By replacing short haul flights with rail trips and facilitating coordination between rail companies and airlines, we can reduce the logistical barriers which often stand in the way of multimodal international journeys. Strategies to increase multimodal journeys include:
- Adapting infrastructure to encourage connections between intercity rail services and airports. Lufthansa found that as of 2020 only 5 German airports are connected to Deutsche Bahn’s high speed intercity rail network and that for many air passengers, the frequency of domestic rail connections often did not suit their travel needs. Express rail options between cities and international hubs should be increased and train frequency should be increased to reasonably coincide with flights.
- This ought not be only implemented for domestic travel, rail connections to international airports should also support international travel where possible.
- Increasing convenience when it comes to ticketing and mileage infrastructure. In many cases the ticketing infrastructure of rail and airlines are separate and hard to navigate. Railways and airlines should work to integrate ticketing to provide a more seamless conection between the two and to facilitate easier replacement and rebooking in the case of cancelations, delays, or otherwise changed travel plans.
- additionally, airlines and rail services can share information with regards to baggage and connections to further ease multimodal journeys
It is additionally important to consider total emissions and environmental concerns when discussing adding high speed rail connections and constructing new air and rail infrastructure, as rail infrastructure can have long-lasting impacts on wildlife habitats and the surrounding area. Therefore any discussion of rail and air multimodality should focus on reduction of emissions from both sectors and understanding how the two can compliment each other to provide the most efficient transportation.
Lufthansa has joined with Deutsche Bahn to facilitate easier connection between major cities and international airports. The Rail&Fly program allows individuals to book specific train tickets with Lufthansa when they are booking flight tickets – coordinated train tickets are then added to their itinerary and are valid for the day before and/or after their flights. In addition, they offer the Lufthansa Express Rail, which connects most major cities and the Frankfurt Airport with timed connections facilitating reasonable transfers and automatic rebooking in case of cancellations or delays. Customers receive one ticket for their Lufthansa Express rail journey and can simultaneously check in for both the rail and plane journey.
Swiss International Air Lines and SBB have partnered to offer the “Airtrain” between Basel, Lugano, Geneva, and Zurich International Airport. With a maximum duration of 3 hours and up to 20 trains per day on routes with the highest demand this service facilitates connections between major cities and the principal hub for Swiss. Customers benefit from an integrated ticketing and rewards mileage system as well as door-to-door luggage service coordinated by rail and airline partners.