File this one under ‘Woah.’ Air France, France’s national air carrier and one of the world’s largest airlines, is considering replacing some of its connecting flights with high-speed rail service in conjunction with Veolia Transport, also of France. According to the International Herald Tribune:
“More than half of all flights are connections, and in effect long-haul is where the value is. Short haul is just way for Air France to get passengers to Charles de Gaulle” airport in Paris, Van den Brul said.
Shifting passengers onto trains from planes would result in “significant” cost savings, a particular concern for airlines struggling to cope with record high oil prices.
Energy accounts for about 40 percent of an airline’s total costs, against only around 10-15 percent for rail.
This is pretty nutty stuff. In the US at least, airlines have been suppressing passenger rail for decades. Hence, it’s more than a little ironic that at least one of them is turning to the efficiencies of HSR to save their collapsing business model.
And this is exactly the market high-speed rail can appeal to. Planes are always going to dominate the long-haul routes. New York-Los Angeles, Miami-Seattle, any overseas travel for obvious reasons… some routes are too far for even fast trains to really compete with air travel. But Minneapolis-Chicago, Boston-Washington, Los Angeles-San Francisco, these are the lengths where high-speed trains are eminently more practical than planes. With fuel costs for airlines rising, particularly on these short trips, we can only hope that more airlines like Air France will see that HSR can benefit them as well as us.
This is what we want: More transportation options.