Flexitaerian, instructions for use: comparative merits of the plane and the train


The flexitarian is someone who still eats meat, but not every day, or when he really wants to, a kind of intermittent vegetarian.

Flexitaérien , assumed neologism, will designate the one who does not systematically take the plane, who tries to avoid it, because the plane, it pollutes, it makes noise, and above all it emits a lot of CO2. The stakes of this emerging debate are summarized in this excellent article by Le Monde journalist Pascale Krémer, here .

The discussion rages. Some advocate the total renunciation of the plane. No more discoveries of distant countries, visits to expatriate friends, reports in Cairo or kyiv, conferences in Montreal or Fort-de-France. Others, on the other hand, advocate not changing anything. After all, if there are planes and airports, it is for us to use them. And then, moreover, “we have no choice” , they sometimes add, without fear of provocation. And between these two radical positions, the whole panoply of flexibility, of personal ethics, of the “moral framework that everyone makes out of bits and pieces” , as Pascale Krémer puts it, who also delivers a “instruction manual” intended for airplane addict .

At Vienna airport

Being a flexitarian, for example, is Paris-Bratislava, 1050 km, one way by train, the return by plane. I made these trips at the end of February. An opportunity to compare the advantages and disadvantages, sometimes unexpected, of the two modes.

Duration, plane advantage. The plane is of course faster. The flight lasts two hours, to which must however be added access to Vienna airport, the return from Roissy airport, security formalities and waiting at the airport, making a total of 7 hours door to door. The trip by train lasts in theory 13 hours, putting the different journeys end to end. But the trip was punctuated by hazards (see below) and took place in several stages, first Innsbruck, in the heart of the Alps, then Vienna, its museums and famous cafes, and finally the capital of Slovakia. This is where the train gets more interesting. Because traveling by train is much more than a trip, or a service, it’s a journey.

Read also: Do ​​we have the right to travel by plane when we travel by bicycle? (August 2016)

Comfort, train advantage. It’s obvious: in a train, the traveler can stretch his legs, have armrests, get up at will, travel the train as he pleases. We take the time to read, dream or work. In Germany and Austria, it is possible to order a hot meal, a beer or a coffee from the waiter who passes among the passengers. On a plane, without even mentioning Air France pretzels, I spent two hours wedged between two passengers as badly seated as me, unable to tilt the seat, trying not to move any limbs for fear of disturbing someone.

Read also: Happiness is on the slow train (May 2015)

Baggage delivery.

Baggage, train advantage. The trains have large storage spaces. The number of bags is not limited, with some exceptions. On the plane, on the other hand, space is rationed. The luggage drawers are overflowing with the “cabin suitcases” of passengers who want to keep their belongings in the cabin. Space is so limited that passengers who have placed their luggage in the hold sometimes have to sacrifice their space, traveling with their extra bag at their feet. After landing at Roissy, I waited for the delivery of the luggage for almost an hour, while the shrill sound of an alarm resounding in the air terminal. The sign said “baggage delivered” , despite the obvious.

Intermodality is debatable. Arriving in Innsbruck, Vienna or Bratislava, all you have to do is get on a tram or metro to find yourself at your destination. You can also take a taxi or walk. Arriving at Roissy airport on a Saturday evening, the RER plays its role perfectly, punctual and quiet.

Hazards, aircraft advantage. Flight delayed? Train blocked? There are many hazards when you travel, and you have to accept them. In this case, on the way out, luck was not with me. The ICE (German TGV) Paris-Stuttgart, the first stage to Innsbruck, was delayed for several hours, due to a broken down convoy on the track, in France. Delays have accumulated, connections added. In practice, this journey, which should have lasted 8.5 hours, including an hour’s break, and two changes, took 12 hours, and four changes. Which puts us on Paris-Bratislava via Innsbruck at 5:30 p.m.

Austrian airlines, wing.

Cost is debatable. The plane is presented

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