Travel chains can be used to minimize emissions and to increase options | Finnair Germany
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Travel chains can be used to minimize emissions and to increase options

Intermodality means combining different methods of travel in a single trip and it is one of the ways we can make travelling more environmentally friendly. In Central Europe there are positive experiences from the introduction of travel chains.

Intermodality means offering a seamless travel experience using two or more methods of travel within one trip. An example of this would be replacing a domestic flight with a fast bus or train connection, which reduces environmental impact.

"The carbon emission load on shorter flights is always considerably greater than on longer ones. Long haul flights also typically carry freight which takes a share of the emission load. On the other hand, replacing a short flight with another method of travel is viable. For example, between Turku and Helsinki, the savings could be up to 50 kg and between Helsinki and Kuopio around 65 kg", Tuomo Karppinen, Finnair's Environmental Management System Manager states.

Creating functional travel chains can have a big impact when the sustainability of flying is developed. At Finnair, the combining of different methods of travel is seen as an important tool on the journey towards the carbon neutrality objective of 2045.

At its best, a travel chain does not create significant delays. On shorter flights, the time spent at the airport is relatively longer and this can be avoided with train or bus travel.

In many cities the bus or train connections also take the customers closer to the city centre, making travel easier.

Ease of travel is also increased with the option to purchase a single ticket for the entire journey. Finnair is already co-operating with Deutsche Bahn in Germany and offers flight and railway ticket bundles that make it possible to reach the final destination directly. Rail&Fly service is available from all the seven German airports that Finnair operates direct flights to. With Deutsche Bahn, the destination can be any of 5600 options across Germany.

Airlines and bus operators have great responsibility in ensuring the travel experience is seamless. Scheduling must support swift transfers and customers should be able to rely on making their connecting flights despite possible bus delays.

In Finland, the renewal of the Helsinki-Vantaa airport creates even better opportunities to develop intermodality as the new train station is right by the arrival and departure halls. Each customer can now have a positive impact on travel emissions by choosing to use public transport.

Germany and France lead the way 

In Central Europe, where the network of rail connections is particularly good, intermodality has already been introduced with positive results. Functional travel chains have made it possible to decrease the number of short flights and centralize flights to larger airports.

In Germany, the airline representative German Aviation Industry (BDL) and national train line Deutsche Bahn (DB) have joined forces to create ways in which to replace short domestic flights with train connections. There is an understanding in Germany that out of the travellers choosing to fly domestic flights at least 20 percent could choose to travel by train if the connections are well-planned.

The co-operation has led to an action plan including steps to increase the feeder lines for international flights, improve the connections between train stations and airports, optimize routes, and increase the speed of train travel.

Even in France intermodality is considered to be one of the travel methods of the future. The French state is directing the travel operators to make this shift with several police changes. The most radical of these is a law forbidding all domestic flights where the destination could be reached by train in under 2,5 hours. The goal is to make the policy even stricter in the long run.

Air France has responded to the policy changes and the overall trend with its Train + Air project. It is also a part of the company's sustainability program. The airline's objective is to decrease the carbon emissions from domestic flights by 50% by 2025 in comparison to the 2019 levels.

Air France has also stated that travel chains must be enforced since research points out that environmental factors are weighing heavier than ever on the purchasing decisions of customers. At the same time, the high-speed TGV trains provide a good framework for this change in France.  

Finnair is taking the next steps in increasing intermodality. The objective is to ensure that environmental goals are reached – without compromising good connections. Finnair replaces some of the daily flights between Tampere and Turku with a new bus connection. The emissions produced per mile and customer on the Tampere and Turku routes are relatively heavy within the Finnair network.

”We fully understand the importance that good connections have on the business and economy in these cities, and Turku and Tampere will remain as an important part of our network. Travel on these routes is focused on international transfer travel, and we want to continue to offer the best range of connections to our customers in these regions", Perttu Jolma, Finnair's VP Traffic Planning says.

"Combining different modes of transport is an important tool in reducing carbon emissions, and it is also in line with Finland's national emission reduction targets."

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