INDUSTRY / COMPETITION

Short-hauling: Spanish regional airline Air Nostrum wants to operate high-speed rail routes

As short-haul flying is mostly a tedious, uncomfortable experience with lots of queuing and waiting, while at the same time a growing number of consumers have become more conscious about the environmental impact of air travel, the popularity of high-speed rail as an alternative to short-haul flying has steadily been growing.

Compared to air travel within a range of around 700 kilometer, high-speed rail means less hassle, because of direct connections between city centers, lighter security and luggage regulations, and a much more comfortable journey.

In Europe, for example Eurostar’s London-Amsterdam service – which was launched in April this year – has proved such a success that the train operator expects to operate a third and possibly even a fourth daily service from next year on.

And on many city pairs, high-speed rail now has a much higher market share than air travel. For example, between Madrid and Barcelona, 65 percent of the market has moved to high-speed rail, while ItaloTren has a market share of 75 percent between Milan and Rome. In Japan, the Shinkansen for a long time has a market share of over 85 percent on the routes between Tokyo and Osaka and between Kyoto/Osaka and Fukuoka.

And as Google Flights nows shows Deutsche Bahn as alternative to a flight when searching for a fare between for example Amsterdam and Frankfurt (a journey of over 400 km), ‘short-hauling’ via high-speed rail is on track for further growth.

High-speed rail as feeder
Several airlines and rail companies are already working together to provide travellers with a seamless ‘intermodal’ connection, effectively using high-speed rail as feeder service to long-haul flights.

For example, Lufthansa Express Rail is a collaboration between the airline and Deutsche Bahn and provides passengers with an integrated booking from 8 destinations throughout Germany to and from Frankfurt Airport. This means reserved seats on the train, remote baggage check-in, plus a guaranteed connection. Lufthansa will expand its Express Rail service to 20 German destinations by mid-2019. Read full article »

As it turns Dubai into a global hub, Emirates embraces a diverse passenger base

By Vivek Mayasandra

Over recent years, Gulf-based carriers Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad have dazzled the global airline industry with their aircraft orders, premium services and rapid expansion. Besides targetting traditional routes such as Europe – Australasia, Emirates, the leader of Gulf aviation growth, has aggressively capitalized on new passenger flows, connecting Asia with Africa and with Latin America via its Dubai hub – markets which will collectively occupy over 60 percent of passenger flows by the year 2030, according to Boeing’s latest market forecast.

As Emirates states in its latest annual report: “The future of our industry is being written not only in long-established air routes, but also in places like China, India and Africa – markets where the demand for air transport, both passenger and cargo, is growing at an incredible rate.” […] “Our strategic hub in Dubai plays a key role in establishing new trade routes by linking emerging markets to more developed ones, such as connecting Moscow to Durban, Beijing to Luanda or Hyderabad to Sao Paulo.”

This focus has enabled Emirates to position and brand itself to a newly global customer base – and more importantly – develop solutions in service, dining and entertainment for a wide array of diverse passenger tastes.


Cabin crew
In the air, Emirates’ diverse cabin crew is indicative of its global focus – the airline employs cabin crew from more than 130 nationalities. This lets Emirates typically staff their flights with speakers of Arabic, English and the local language of the flight’s destination. Being an Gulf-based carrier, Emirates’ crew are also trained for a variety of Arab and Muslim cultural situations – from being taken to mosques, learning how to serve the traditionally Arab meal of coffee and dates, to properly serving veiled Muslim passengers.

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Latest high-speed trains in Asia offer airline-like business class cabins

The advantages of high-speed rail have been well documented. Compared with flying, travelling by fast train offers city-center to city-center connections, no need for checked baggage, or repeated queuing for security and boarding. Also, trains are not prone to delays caused by bad weather, slow baggage handling, crowded runways and air traffic. Research has shown that business travellers are willing to travel to destinations by rail for up to 4 hours, while leisure travellers are even prepared to use trains for journeys of up to 6 hours. 

In an effort to make rail travel even more attractive for business travellers, high-speed rail operators in China and Japan have recently introduced airline-like business class cabins on their latest fast trains. 

BeijingShanghai ‘Harmony Express’
China is in the process of building the world’s largest high-speed network in record time, with rapid passenger lines already criss-crossing much of the country. The recently opened Beijing to Shanghai high-speed railway is the latest portion of a network the government hopes will stretch 45,000 km (27,960 miles) by the end of 2015. Construction of the 1,318 kilometre (819 mile) high-speed rail connection between Beijing and Shanghai began in April 2008 and track laying was completed only 2,5 years later in November 2010. The USD33 billion rail line has been operating on a trial basis since mid-May and was officially opened at the end of June 2011. 

Onboard experience
Besides second and first class cars, the Beijing – Shanghai Harmony Express features a business class car with 24 lie-down seats with a nearly full recline. Each seat is equipped with a foldable LCD TV, a tray table, socket and reading lamp. Travellers are waited on by uniformed stewardesses and even the galley area and restroom have been upgraded. 
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