Air France extends “Train + Air” to Bordeaux: all that for this?

Following the ban on domestic flights that can be replaced by a TGV journey of 2.5 hours or less, Air France and SNCF have extended their “Train + Air” product to the Bordeaux-Orly route.

About the aircraft ban on short flights

This “ban” is one of the counterparts requested by the government for its support to Air France during the COVID crisis in order to make the French airline “the most environmentally friendly in the world”.

We use quotation marks on purpose because it is not a formal prohibition at this time but rather a gentlemen’s agreement. If the law remains as it is, nothing will prevent an airline from proposing a Bordeaux-Orly route once the recovery has taken place. And if, as it is planned, tomorrow the law will prohibit these flights, nothing will prevent a passenger from making a Paris-Frankfurt-Bordeaux flight if he does not want to hear from the SNCF.

Let’s add that this does not concern connecting flights, so we can logically continue to make a Bordeaux-Roissy-New York. And by the way, a Bordeaux-Roissy flight because a connection does not mean doing all the segments of one’s trip on the same ticket and prohibiting self-connection for environmental reasons would look like a distortion of competition.

In short, a ban that only concerns one or two routes for a sector that weighs nothing in emissions in a country that weighs nothing in emissions worldwide.

But that’s not the topic of the day.

Train + Air: a smart partnership

In a previous post we said that rather than opposing train and plane we should rather push for the development of synergies and “Train + Air” is part of these interesting initiatives in this regard.

“Train + Air” is nothing new and allows a passenger to take a TGV to reach the airport from where his connecting flight leaves, with a single ticket from start to finish, travel on the TGV in first class for Air France Business or Première passengers, the guarantee of being rebooked on another flight in the event of a train delay, and the accumulation of miles and XP on the rail journey for members of the Air France Flying Blue loyalty program.

“Train+Air” is now available to Roissy and/or Orly from Angers Saint-Laud, Avignon TGV, Champagne-Ardenne TGV, Le Mans, Lille Europe, Lorraine TGV, Lyon Part-Dieu, Nantes, Nîmes, Poitiers, Rennes, Saint-Pierre-des-Corps, Strasbourg and Valence TGV

Following the cancellation of the Orly-Bordeaux service by Air France, the TGV Air offer has been extended to this route.

According to the Air France press release:

“Customers will travel by train from Bordeaux to Massy TGV, before being transferred to Paris-Orly by a cab service. There will be five daily departures from Bordeaux Saint-Jean and four from Massy TGV, at times adapted to allow fast connections.”

30 minute cab ride to save the environment

Arriving at Roissy TGV station to take a connection from T2 is a very convenient experience even if it’s not worth an air-to-air connection with checked-in luggage from end to end and the fact of being “airside” in the whole airport journey thus avoiding some stress.

The problem of “Train + Air at Orly” is the arrival of the train at Massy TGV station which is anything but close to Orly when you look closely.

12km is not a big deal, right? But in a mid-urban area dense with various activities, geographical proximity does not mean fast ride.

It takes an average of half an hour to get from the train station to the airport. This does not include of course the time needed to go from the train to the car and then into the airport, we’ll talk about logistical constraints later.

So the “Train + Air” passenger connecting at Orly is offered a 30-minute cab ride to save the environment. Let’s hope that only electric cabs are proposed.

I wanted to compare it to a trip between downtown Paris and Orly, from my home for example.

Almost equivalent distance and almost equivalent time.

This suddenly reminds us that “Train + Air” only concerns passengers connecting at Orly or Roissy, so in this case, only Bordeaux passengers passing through Paris. But what about the Parisian going to Bordeaux? Or from the Bordeaux region whose final destination is Paris?

So of course it can go through Roissy, but Roissy is not the most convenient airport for point-to-point.

“Train + Air”: a half solution

Because if we want to offer a “real” alternative on the Paris-Bordeaux route, we have to offer the air passenger something else than “just taking the train”.

Let’s not forget that for business trips, most of the business headquarters that can be visited in Bordeaux are located in Merignac, far from the Bordeaux Saint Jean train station, in traffic conditions that have nothing to envy to the Parisian traffic jams.

Let’s not forget that for these same trips and in general for frequent passengers the SNCF offers a much lower quality experience than the airlines, especially in the train stations where its famous lounges are a vast sham and do not provide satisfactory working or waiting conditions.

I won’t even talk about losing the ability to credit their rides to their airline loyalty program and not enjoy its benefits.

The problem with “Train + Air” is that it only concerns connections. What would be a real progress welcomed by all customers is :

  • TGV with Air France flight number from Montparnasse.
  • Credit on Flying Blue.
  • Maintaining Flying Blue benefits that are realistically applicable to such trips.

And for connecting passengers:

  • The check-in of the luggage from beginning to end (at least for Roissy where you arrive in the airport).

Towards a real Train-Air partnership?

“Train + Air” was a very relevant and convenient initiative in the “old world”. Today’s requirements mean that everything is in place to go much further between air and rail players and move from complementarity to synergy.

This will often mean that the railways will have to upgrade their services (at least in France).

Nor will we be able to avoid thinking about the infrastructure, because today the Massy-Orly connection does not correspond to a long-term scalable plan. Remember that it does not only concern Air France but also many other airlines which in one way or another “pick up” their passengers at Massy, not to mention the passengers who go through Massy by themselves to reach Orly.

Image : TGV Bordeaux St Jean by katatonia82 Via Shutterstock

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrin
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.

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