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The French government bail-out for Air France came with conditions.  One of these conditions was increased sustainability.  The airline has announced it is considering the operation of trains instead of planes on some domestic routes to reduce their carbon footprint.  Is this a viable option for both airlines or will it see the parting of their ways?

HIgh Speed Train Credit: Andrew Teoh

The Benefits of  Replacing Domestic Routes with Train Services 

Domestic flights already running at a loss no doubt due to competition from the French TGV trains.  These high speed trains do not take any longer than a short haul flight taking into account check-in and baggage collections processes.  They are also more environmentally friendly than flying.  Trains are also a low-cost option for air passengers which makes it hard for airlines to compete with them.  In order to survive post COVID-19 airlines should consider diversifying and running train services is one option.  It has already been done in the UK by Virgin.

Alternative Environmental Changes

The Air France-KLM alliance are also looking at other environmental changes for example, the use of environmentally friendly aircraft and also changing to more environmentally fuel.  Air France has a clear idea of the financial support it is being offered and the conditions imposed by the French government on this support. However, KLM is still in negotiation with the Dutch government regarding the amount of financial support it will offer.  There are bound to be conditions attached to any support that is offered.

The group will not be in a position to make any positive plans until a bail-out package is in place for KLM and there is a clearer picture regarding the short-term future of aviation.  The flurry of failed airlines may present other opportunities for government-backed companies.

Possible Effects on the Franco-Dutch Alliance

KLM planes on stand Credit: Miguel Angel Sanz

There have already been reports that KLM officials are not in accord with the plans of Air France.  They are concerned that the power the government is exerting over the airline could be a problem for their own operations.  These two well-established airlines merged in 2004 but recently they have started to drift apart.  There have already been disagreements, for example the re-appointment of Pieter Elbers as CEO of KLM.   And, it has been reported that KLM is concerned that Air France will be pushing them in the direction being dictated to them by their own government.  Two separate nationalised airlines may be the eventual outcome.  Only time will tell.

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