As part of the conditions for multi billion dollar bailouts, some global airlines, particularly in Europe, were forced to embrace change. Namely, climate change. As part of the bailout agreements in France and the Netherlands, Air France was forced to end flights which could be short rail journeys.

In other words, if you land in Paris and want to take a very short flight to a place which would be a two hour train journey, you’ll no longer be able to. Ahead of future policies, it seems some airlines are already jumping on board, including Delta.

Air + Rail Travel

For better — and worse — rail is entering the travel spotlight once again, as government policy makers look to cut carbon emissions rapidly. Seeing further restrictions ahead, a variety of airlines are carving out rail partnerships now, to offer more choice in Europe.

A sympathetic White House and a massive infrastructure bill in the USA mean there’s a strong chance some of these ideas make their way across the pond, too.

For now, in EUrope, Delta Airlines is partnering with Thalys high-speed trains, and will offer Air+Rail tickets from Amsterdam to both Brussels and Antwerp, and vice versa.

“This Air+Rail program with Thalys is just the beginning, as we look to offer our customers complete peace of mind with fast and convenient train service to a number of destinations throughout Europe. For our European customers, this also provides a great way to travel to Amsterdam to catch flights to destinations throughout the United States.

We have learned from our partner airlines, Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, who offer similar programs, and with the rail infrastructure already in place in Europe we are able to provide our customers with increased choice as well as convenient travel options.” 

Alain Bellemare, President – International, Delta Airlines

Air France recently extended their air + rail options to a further 7 cities, connecting Paris with a larger number of regional capitals. When landing at Paris Orly or Charles De Gaulle, a single reservation now allows seamless connections all over the country.

  • between Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Aix-en-Provence TGV, Bordeaux Saint-Jean, Marseille Saint-Charles and Montpellier Saint-Roch;
  • between Paris-Orly (via Massy TGV station) and Avignon TGV, Marseille Saint-Charles and Valence TGV.

Studies suggest these options will make a significant impact on carbon emissions, but will they work as well elsewhere? Europe has some of the best rail options in the world, which now feature mobile forward passenger solutions.

US rail links, however, are not nearly as streamlined or efficient as those throughout Europe, but that’s not stopping a tremendous push for money and resources.

In the United States, lobbying efforts to promote rail are intensifying. President Joe Biden has long been sympathetic to Amtrak, and the industry is using this fondness to push for government subsidies, to the tune of $66 billion, with no strings attached.

Writing On The Walls

Many shorter plane journeys may eventually become rail journeys. Airlines are now acting to get ahead of pending legislation in Europe, which in many cases makes great sense. Europe is very well poised to curb emissions with efficient rail, particularly on short journeys, and excellent connectivity between airports and railways already exists.

In the USA, it just might not make nearly as much sense, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping this train.

Strong PR efforts from the beleaguered rail industry in the USA are in place to capitalize on a variety of conflated travel ideas and a sympathetic White House, with hopes of siphoning off air traffic. A recently passed bill would give Amtrak $66 billion, with no promise of faster or more environmentally friendly services.

It’s unclear how developing more public land and environmentally protected spaces would help the climate situation in the United States, when far more efficient solutions, such as electric busses could serve more specific and timely transportation uses, with easy adjustments to demand.

Expect to see more air and rail in the future, perhaps even in the USA.

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