Why easyJet Does Not Operate Flights Where Trains Are 3 Hours Or Less

In certain markets, airlines compete directly with train operating companies. This is a common phenomenon in Europe, where countries like France and Germany have extensive high-speed rail networks. However, in some instances, airlines choose not to compete for various reasons. easyJet is one such carrier, and Simple Flying recently learned why.

EasyJet Getty
EasyJet appreciates that the train can sometimes be more convenient. Photo: Getty Images

Three hours as a general rule

Over the years, easyJet has cultivated a diverse European network. It serves a wide variety of point-to-point routes, connecting cities in different countries across the continent at low prices. However, in certain nations, it also has something of a domestic footprint. Indeed, the orange-clad low-cost carrier is one of the key players in the UK market.

For example, it serves several England-Scotland routes as well as Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands. However, when establishing new short routes, there does become a point at which easyJet has to assess the suitability of flying. Speaking exclusively to Simple Flying at our Future Flying Forum, easyJet CCO Sophie Dekkers explained:

When we’re assessing new routes, we do look at what the alternative modes of transport are. How long would it take by train? How long would it take by road? And typically, as a rule of thumb, we don’t operate any routes that would have a train equivalent of three hours or less.”

Deutsche Bahn, easyJet, Sustainability
EasyJet has a large UK domestic footprint, but it leaves some routes untouched. Photo: Getty Images

Manchester no, Scotland yes

One such route that easyJet has left alone is London-Manchester. While UK flag carrier British Airways does offer direct flights on this corridor, the city center to city center convenience of a two-hour train journey is hard to beat. With this in mind, Dekkers adds that:

People often say to us, why don’t you operate Manchester to London? The reason is [that] the train is less than three hours. (…) Anything where the train is shorter than three hours, people just aren’t going to go through the hassle.”

As alluded to earlier, one UK domestic market where easyJet does thrive is on flights up to Scotland. Traveling from London to Edinburgh or Glasgow by train takes more than four hours, and easyJet sees these as key corridors for people making day trips. Dekkers states:

Where we do see demand is on domestics like London-Scotland, for example, where you can’t do a day return. And particularly for business travelers, they want that ability to be able to do day return travel, they don’t want to spend 10 hours on a return journey to Scotland and back.”

TGV Train
France has banned domestic flights on journeys that its TGV high-speed trains can make in less than two-and-a-half hours. Photo: Jake Hardiman | Simple Flying

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A similar policy for French flights in general

EasyJet is not the only group with such a policy in place. Indeed, earlier this year, the French government also drew up legislation banning airlines from operating domestic flights on corridors where the train can make the journey in less than two-and-a-half hours.

Sustainability was a key driver behind this new rule, and it was a condition of the bailout package for flag carrier Air France. It is important to note here that this only applies to point-to-point journeys. As such, these short flights can still be used as connections.

What do you make of easyJet’s policy regarding short flights? Where do you think airlines should draw the line? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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