KLM Encourages People To Fly Less, Take Train Instead

Filed Under: KLM

Yesterday I wrote about how France plans on introducing a new aviation eco-tax, and how Air France is heavily opposed to it. As I explained yesterday:

  • This is definitely the direction much of the world is headed, so I’d say we should expect a lot more of this
  • I do think the government should do more to encourage airlines and consumers to minimize emissions as much as possible, though I’m not sure a departure tax is the best way to accomplish this; very little is done to encourage airlines to operate fuel efficient aircraft, for example
  • This definitely puts a burden on airlines, since an increase in taxes leads to a decrease in how much airlines can otherwise charge

Well, Air France and KLM are owned by the same parent company, so it’s interesting to look at the campaign that KLM launched a couple of weeks ago, which also coincides with their 100th anniversary.

KLM is running a new “Fly Responsibly” campaign. The premise is that they’ve been flying for 100 years, and they want to make sure they make aviation sustainable in a way that means it will be around for another 100 years.

The airline encourages passengers to purchase carbon offset credits, and to pack light. But the airline also makes another very interesting suggestion.

Here’s a short ad, which I’ll share before talking about that suggestion:

As you can see, the video asks the following question:

Do you always have to meet face-to-face? Could you take the train instead?

Absolutely fascinating, and it’s one of the few times I’ve seen a company basically encourage you not to do business with them.

This would be the same as McDonald’s encouraging people to eat elsewhere because it’s healthier, or heck, even not eating burgers due to the impact that has on the environment.

So, should KLM be praised for this initiative, or is this complete hypocrisy?

I definitely lean more towards the former. In general the Dutch are environmentally conscious. I think there’s a happy medium that an airline can take between not caring at all about the environment, and shutting down operations due to the impact they have on the environment.

I also think KLM does a pretty good job explaining this on their “Fly Responsibly” page, acknowledging that this might be a surprising stance for an airline to take:

Yes, we are an airline and we realise aviation is far from sustainable today, even if we have been – and are – working hard to improve every aspect of our business. We are proud to have led the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for 12 years and have been in the top 3 for 14 years in a row. But we need to do more. And we cannot do it alone. We have set ourselves the objective to lead the industry in delivering the economic and social value of network aviation in a sustainable way, by making our products and processes even more sustainable. That is why we kindly invite all parties to join us, and the many KLM passengers who have already supported us in our pursuit, by compensating their CO2 footprint with our CO2ZERO service. Let’s join forces for creating a sustainable future.

So as much as this is an unconventional campaign, I think KLM deserves credit for it.

Other airlines are trying to make similar claims, but in a less compelling way. For example, Lufthansa’s CEO now claims that it’s “ecologically irresponsible” to sell $11 flights.

What do you make of KLM’s “Fly Responsibly” campaign?

(Tip of the hat to Miles To Memories)

  1. Substituting rail for air has been happening for a while. I used to regularly fly Air France between Paris and Brussels. Now you can’t fly between those two cities. And frankly, the train is more convenient if you’re going from city center to city center. (Amusing note: Air France used to serve a full hot breakfast in First Class aboard the Caravelles used on that route. Two flight attendants served – if I remember correctly – a maximum of eight passengers, and the flight took less than 25 minutes.)

  2. High speed rail is a good option in Europe and I use it every trip. It would be great to have the option of actual high speed rail in the USA however, it probably won’t happen in our lifetimes.

  3. @Super VC10,

    You can in fact get a flight between CDG and BRU on Brussels Airlines. So it’s very limited, but the train is not the only way to travel between the two cities.

  4. @Nelson: CO2 emissions per passenger mile are vastly lower by train than plane. The fact that it’s not *zero* (“on vapour”) is irrelevant.

  5. @John, you’re right, Brussels Airlines has Flt’s to CDG but I think they don’t have Codeshare with AF. So the Flt’s between BRU and CDG are only lucrative for Codeshare Flt’s and stay’s in Paris. Nonetheless if for stay’s in Paris I would surely drive or take the train out of Brussels. Because from CDG to the center of Paris it could take you more time then from BRU to CDG. Besides the train operating to CDG starts at Brussels Midi station, not at BRU Airport. I avoid all the time traveling from BRU to anywhere having a stop at CDG.

  6. @ Nelson. Trains polute way less than planes. Up to 10 times less… so even though it’s not 100% green, its a heck of a lot better.

  7. It’d be more interesting if they did an interline agreement with NS or rail operators at their outstations to make for a more seamless experience when flying KLM. Just about the only reason I can think of for flying shorthaul within europe is the convenience of already being at the airport from your tatl flight.

    @Nelson even if the electricity running the train is from a fossil-fuel power plant, trains are fantastically more efficient at moving stuff from A to B. A diesel-electric locomotive can move a ton of freight ~470 miles on a gallon of fuel. A 747 can move a ton of freight ~31 miles on a gallon of fuel.

  8. Fuel is the largest expense for an airline so THAT is their motivation for fuel efficiency.

    This “re-education camp” mentality is ridiculous.

  9. At the same time I keep getting email ads from KLM: “Now’s your chance to save on Amsterdam, Barcelona, and more. Take advantage of our limited Ready, Set, Fly, deals and book your next getaway!”

  10. @ Nelson: correct. But not only that, in France they use almost eclusivly nucklear power and that is no option for me. However, Train travel, at least in Germany, is horrible and I only go by train if I absolutly have to. One time they forget to cater drinks and food, next time the aircon is not working in the middle of a heat wave or it is snowing a bit and only half of the trains are going and have to be cleared by police because they are to full, the train is broken and nearly makes it to the next station. I could go on and on. Nowadays you can’t fly between Berlin and Hamburg and I rather take the car, even if I’m stuck in traffic, it’s better, because at least I know that my car takes me where I need to go.

    And the whole enviromental thing is just going crazy in Europe. It doesn’t matter if it really helps, you just invent something because it looks good. And this is one of these stupid PR stunts. This is like telling you to by an electric car and it doesn’t matter, where the batteries come from and that in a few years we’ll have many old batteries and noone knows what to do with them.

  11. The EU Globalist Eurocrats want to stick it to travelers. Firstly, another shakedown climate tax on air travel. Secondly, encourage travel via trains and experience the no-go zones of train stations.

    In summary, you’ll get a tax on your air travel, and, you might get attacked at the stations.
    Win-win for Eurostan!

  12. Yeah, UK already doing this and how much of the ridiculous UK APD actually goes to saving the planet?

  13. It doesnt matter because global warming climate change and climate emergency are going to kill us all in 7-12 years. So go enjoy and fly as much as you can

  14. It’s important to remember that Air France-KLM has a codeshare partnership with SNCF, the French train company, which in turn has partnerships with almost all European rail companies. Already if you try to book an AF itinerary from let’s say the US to Strasbourg, you may note that your connection at CDG is actually a train. So this doesn’t seem any more odd than AA encouraging you to fly on BA etc.

    As for environmental factors, almost all trains in continental Europe are electric, and virtually none of that power comes from fossil fuels. It is primarily nuclear, with a little renewable mixed in.

  15. @ernest and @boris, is that what you consider insightful commentary?

    Conservatives, guffaw. I’m not an SJW by any means, but the amount of people who don’t want to believe or do anything about climate change because it might mean they eat less meat (I’m not a veggie either) or take fewer flights is pretty sad.

    I live in East Africa. I basically can’t get around the region for work effectively without flying given the infrastructure on the ground, so I need to do it even if it involves a decent number of 50 minute-1 hr 15 minute flights. When I’m back in the Northeast US however I try to take the train or rent a hybrid whenever possible (not just for environmental reasons but also for environmental reasons). Little things like this ad is arguing, even if there is some cynical corporate motive, would make an appreciable difference even if these decisions won’t “save the world” by themself.

  16. We do hear from KLM because that is a publicity campaign…. Bureaucrats in France are eager to get more Euros with new taxes. Meanwhile, the news like
    “Oil Producers Are Burning Enough ‘Waste’ Gas to Power Every Home in Texas
    April 10, 2019, 2:24 PM EDT Updated on April 11, 2019, 12:47 PM EDT
    Flaring has reached record levels due to lack of pipelines
    Operators had to pay customers to take away gas this month”

    die out quickly because one cannot make money out of it and/or get much publicity/get elected to the office.

    I do rent hybrid cars and use econo mode when driving my car, I open windows at night instead of air con, and switch off the thermostat when traveling. But I am not asking someone else to pay a fee so I would “offset” his/her CO2 emission.

  17. Ben – as much as I enjoy reading your blog, maybe you should also consider limiting your travel since you seem to agree with KLM’s campaign… especially those mileage runs and trips from nowhere to nowhere just for the sake of flying a different airline or “trying” a different product.

  18. @Ben: Why do post this in your blog? You know that many of your fellas including that one residing in 1600 Pennsylvania Ave don’t even believe in climate change or evolution? There’s a more appropriate audience for addressing serious scientific issue like this.

  19. “Do you always have to meet face-to-face? Could you take the train instead?”

    What illogical question is this?

    So travelling by train you omit meeting people face-to-face?

  20. If vegetarianism and veganism were the moral high-ground of the 20th century, refusing to fly for leisure (until we get electric planes) is surely the 21st century equivalent.

    Difficult for airlines but it is probably smart for them to recognise that trend and be seen to at least try to discourage unnecessary travel rather risk far more onerous regulatory restrictions than a departure tax
    Countries have emissions targets under the Paris Agreement and the smart airlines will get ahead oc the issue

  21. Everyone who can take the train does already. In these countries with high speed rail anything under 5 hours is by train except those with connecting flights. The problems with a flying tax is it targets people who have no choice but to fly to get to their destination and only drains wallets of travelers without serving a legitimate purpose. Trust me, people don’t want to have to get to an airport and wait around for 2 hours because they have to factor in traffic and go through excessive security lines. This type of campaign is about propaganda and triggering young people who don’t know any better into supporting any radical and absurd environmental regulation and tax.

  22. Conservatives lack the reasoning to be argued with. They argue with their lizard brains first. Don’t even bother. Look at how quickly the first genius tied this back into his fear of scary black and brown people surrounding the train stations, while others just reacted like angry 6 year olds being told they shouldn’t eat so many cookies. That’s roughly their emotional capacity. They’d rather waste their own time and money trying to “fly more” for no reason other than to stick it to the environment (??) when all they’re being asked is to keep their shit in order. Nobody wants to live in a dirty ass planet, that’s all they’re being asked to do.

  23. It kind of reminds me of the numerous times I had to take a train between Boston and NY and vv because of, weather, strike, delays, planes not arrived, crew not arrived, crew timing out, maintenance.
    It always struck me that that particular train was in fact a very reliable alternative compared to the totally unreliable domestic flights.

  24. @lmck doh ! those are two separate questions. Do you need to meet face to face ie phone /video conferencing *Or* could you take the train instead ?

    Many Americans wouldn’t comprehend the concept of efficient rail since their system is about 75 years out of date and mostly diesel

    It takes 3 hours from LA to San Diego versus 2.5 from London to Paris which is twice as far

  25. Short-haul flights are definitely not the money-makers for KLM; the long-haul flights are. So KLM wouldn’t really care whether their wide-bodies are fed by planes or trains, so they might as well promote the environmental-friendly option.

  26. The bottom line is: until the direct flight is more expensive than a flight with a stopover (or even 2), and in several cases it’s also more convenient miles-wise, there will be a problem with aviation.
    Taxes should just do that: make a direct flight always more convenient. Most of the CO2 is produced during take off and landing, so 1 hour flights are the evil to fight.

  27. One of the best things about Schiphol is its station (I can’t stand the airport with its runways miles from the terminals and KLMs habit of forgetting luggage on transfers) and with the Thalys network providing fast trains to Paris and Brussels the train makes sense for many journeys.

    Much of Europe is the right size for rail travel – a 2 or 3 hour rail journey can be quicker than flying by the time you add travel to and from the airport as stations are often central whereas airports rarely are. The US is very different with its longer distances and trains that are not just turn up and go.

    As for this by KLM I think it’s a publicity stunt and anyway this is nothing new Lufthansa even ran its own trains when I was a kid

  28. Not that happy with this campaign, but KLM likes to show its’ “eco-friendly” mode. Funny detail: Transavia (a LCC fully owned by AF/KLM) has just released a campaign(“Say yes!” (to your vacation/flight, etc) ) where they PROMOTE flying (with Transavia). So within the same company, one part is saying “take the train”, while the other part is saying “please fly!”.

  29. This concept originated in Sweden, where it is called Flygskam. SAS has been losing passengers to the railways.

  30. @Ali Yeah Euros never have sniffy commentary on us in the US.

    If I was to travel between Paris and Brussels or Amsterdam for example, there’s no way I’d fly with the hassles of the airports and getting to and from CDG/BRU/AMS into downtown. The train is a much more sensible choice, and that is ignoring any enviro considerations.

    But these kind of taxes are a brilliant coup for government. Virtue signalling for the recipient and a portion of the payees who are gullible enough to think that the money is actually going to solve the “problem”. If global warming is the “existential threat” that all these governments say it is, let them cut other programs as well to pay for the “cure”.

  31. Ben –

    You have a wide & growing audience. Why not take that opportunity to highlight your carbon offset for every flight you take?

    We are at a tipping point – data released from MIT a few days ago. @Ernest @Boris


    I don’t notice the difference paying for an offset ($20 on a recent trans pacific flight).

    Its simply physics there is no arguing about it.

    Well, not if we hope to survive.

    Everyone has to do their part.

  32. Betty – your point that environmentalists are making crazy claims might have more weight if you didn’t make stupidly exaggerated claims about the reliability of German trains.

    I know you are exaggerating for effect, but you can’t do that while simultaneously moaning about supposedly false claims from elsewhere (which you haven’t substantiated anyway – most likely because it’s not really true).

  33. Great… tax the poor and medium income families away for flying, so the rest get more room in the skies. Cause only the former is affected by a tax on a ticket.

  34. I find it entertaining that KLM is saying this, while also making it more expensive for me to take the train from DUS to AMS and then fly AMS to SFO. Instead, I save 200 euro by taking their preposterous DUS-AMS flight and having a layover in AMS.

  35. @Callum

    Betty’s experiences in traveling on the German rail system are unfortunately not exaggerated but rather typical. Refer to the article “‘We are becoming a joke: Germans turn on Deutsche Bahn – Cancelled trains and lengthy delays have turned a once-trusted railway system into a source of national shame”.

    On-time performance has dropped from the 90%s to the 30%s. They allow the railway tracks to get overgrown by trees and weeds because they are afraid tree-huggers would chain themselves to tree branches to be cleared. Any little weather disturbance like an everyday thunderstorm causes an expansive breakdown of the network until fallen tree branches are cleared from the tracks.

    On top of that you have the exposure of highly unsafe train stations. When I cannot avoid traveling in Germany then I fly, mainly because you are reasonably safe once you have passed the airport security (even if that can take well above two hours in Frankfurt – refer to the Skytraxx reviews, there are sometimes thousands of people missing their flights because 2-3h connection times are not enough).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *