Trains vs Planes: If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

 - November 26, 2007, 12:27 PM

“The Air France flight to Brussels is leaving from Platform Two,” could soon be a commonplace announcement following the French carrier’s partnership with railway operator Thalys International. Air France recognizes that the SNCF is its main rival in the French domestic market, but the airline also operates several routes in partnership with the French rail company. The signature in 1995 between the two operators of a partnership agreement on the Paris-CDG/Lille route enabled Air France and the SNCF to ensure rapid connections to and from the CDG airport’s own TGV station to northern France without having to go to one of the city’s downtown railway stations. Since November 1999, passengers have been able to go from Paris-CDG airport direct to Angers, Le Mans, Lyons, Poitiers and Tours.

A separate agreement replaces Air France flights to Brussels with a 1 hr 15 min high-speed train service to and from the Belgian capital in one or two dedicated first-class carriages five times a day. Customers using this service earn Air France frequent flier miles.

In 1999, Lufthansa also concluded a bilateral commercial agreement with the SNCF, and on April 16 BMI (British Midland), the German flag carrier’s partner, used the agreement to increase its sales from the same five provincial destinations in the SNCF-Air France agreement. Customers to or from these cities can now purchase a Lufthansa-coded TGV ticket and buy a single Lufthansa-coded BMI ticket to or from the direct UK destinations of London Heathrow Airport, East Midlands and Leeds/Bradford and more than 30 other (indirect) services including a first- or second-class train journey. These, in addition, are respectively 30 percent and 29 percent cheaper than the regular TGV ticket.