If you're planning a trip to Europe this summer, a trend among air and rail carriers could help streamline your travel plans while helping the environment.
A number of airlines have teamed up with local rail services to allow travelers to book both transit needs in one stop through air and rail packages.
Before you purchase your flight, you may want to check if your airline offers it. Here's how these packages work.
The rise of air + train packages
I traveled to France from Los Angeles at the invitation of the low-cost, long-haul airline French bee to see how its Train + Air package works. It includes roundtrip airfare, shuttle service from the airport to the train station, and train tickets to one of 15 destinations in France.
With the new package, the low-cost airline joins a legion of European carriers streamlining the process to book your air and train transit in one-stop, in an effort to make booking travel easier for customers and encourage more sustainable travel for the environment.
These packages have become a trend among carriers in Europe, sometimes offering the added benefit of a discount on the overall fare. For travelers who may not be familiar with how the train system works at their destination, this could eliminate some anxiety navigating the booking system by having just one point of contact.
The growth of airlines offering these packages stems from more than just convenience. It's also fueled by a growing appetite among travelers for sustainable travel options that limit their carbon footprint. Encouraging passengers to move to rail eliminates unnecessary extra flights that create significantly more carbon emissions than taking the train.
It also balances over- (and under-) tourism by encouraging tourists to venture away from crowded destinations and out to other parts of the country eager to welcome visitors.
How an air + rail package works
French bee's package includes both a shuttle from the airport and a train ticket to one of 15 destinations including Aix-en-Provence TGV, Angers St. Laud, Avignon TGV, Bordeaux St-John, Champagne-Ardenne TGV, Le Mans, Lille-Europe, Lorraine TGV, Lyon Part-Dieu, Marseille St. Charles, Nantes, Poitiers, Rennes, St. Pierre des Corps and Strasbourg.
One benefit of booking this way — beyond the cost and time savings — is if your flight or train is canceled or delayed, your tickets for the next section of your itinerary can be rebooked.
Other carriers offer this option as well, though the logistics might differ. Air France offers an air + rail package to 18 destinations. Elsewhere in Europe, Lufthansa, Condor, KLM, Swiss Air and Iberia have also introduced this option.
To take advantage of one of these packages, you'll need to select it during the booking process with your respective airline. The train fare will then be added to your fare, typically between $60-80 per person but the amount will vary depending on where you decide to go and the date/time of your departure.
From there, the packages vary depending on the airline. Some make the process seamless, sending you your tickets electronically. Others may require you to do a little legwork by showing your passport to pick up your tickets at the station. Make sure you read the instructions for how to claim your rail tickets before you depart.
Some other points to watch out for: Some will only allow you to book rail tickets which depart within 24 hours of the time your flight lands. Sometimes the rail tickets are confined to 2nd class tickets. Check the terms of the package before you book.
My thoughts on the package
I'm a bit biased here as I love traveling by train. I like watching the small towns pass by as I enjoy the free WiFi.
I landed in Paris and for a little less than three hours, the French landscape passed by as the train whisked me away from the bustling streets of the capital to the limestone architecture and full-bodied red wines of Bordeaux.
I think these streamlined packages are especially handy for those who are new to train travel in Europe. Given all the problems with airlines and cancellations due to staffing so far this year, having a ticket that can be rebooked if your flight is delayed or canceled is also a nice benefit.
The process was relatively easy though seasoned train travelers who are comfortable navigating the rail website of their desired destination may find things like paper tickets and requirements like 2nd class tickets a bit frustrating.
(For instance, the ticket office was not open when we needed to depart Bordeaux for our flight so we had to collect tickets on the platform. Not a huge inconvenience, but it would have been nice to have an electronic version of the ticket.)
But for the average traveler, the convenience of checking off all these travel needs in one-stop will far outweigh booking all of these items separately.