The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) brought together heads of state, climate experts and campaigners from 197 states around the world.
Last year, the event saw more than 20,000 people head for Glasgow. Many conference attendees opted to travel to Scotland by train to demonstrate sustainable travel, but whilst great in principle, what resulted was less than ideal and attendees took to social media to share their experiences.
The fundamental problem is that international rail connectivity is dismal. Based on social media posts, many delegates spent more than three days traveling to Scotland from Europe and spent hours (in some cases nights) at terminals waiting for connecting trains.
The climate emergency has seen governments and organisations across the globe commit to net-zero emission targets and the transport and travel industries have a big part to play in achieving this objective.
In October 2021, IATA announced the Fly Net Zero commitment, which intends to achieve Net Zero emissions across the airline industry by 2050. More recently, Denmark announced that it wants all domestic flying to be Net Zero by 2030.
The European Green Deal aims to modernize and revolutionize the transport sector by encouraging alternative means of transport and fuel, as well as improving technological infrastructures to support their cause. Additional initiatives to replace short haul flights and continuous pressure from environmental organisations such as Greenpeace put enormous pressure on the aviation industry.
Inherent issues for aviation
The commercial aviation industry is in a uniquely challenging situation regarding CO2 emissions.
Focus on integrated infrastructure is essential, but also the way that terminals are designed and organised to optimise customer experience is important.
Nick Ashton - Dohop
Airlines have previously adopted carbon offsetting programmes which aim to neutralize an aircraft’s carbon emissions by investing in carbon reduction programmes, enabling them to suggest they offer carbon-neutral flying.
Their customers have also been offered the opportunity to pay to offset their flying, but increasingly, this is seen as not going far enough. Additionally, existing regulations within the aviation industry such as Slot Waiver Rules can hinder obvious progress, although growing pressure has inevitably incentivized regulators to act.
Many airlines (such as EasyJet) have announced SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) programmes. These clean and sustainable fuel initiatives which include hydrogen-powered aircraft and carbon capture technology are positive steps, but we’re not there yet. Increasingly, better-educated and environmentally conscious customers want to make sustainable choices today.
One problem is that transit times at connecting points can be long and inconvenient. Airports do not always have a railway station and international train connections can be difficult (think about connecting from the Eurostar at Paris Gare du Nord if your connection is at Gare de Lyon).
Reducing this friction is key in making connection services more attractive. Focus on integrated infrastructure is essential, but also the way that terminals are designed and organized to optimize customer experience is important. We must focus on reducing travelers’ waiting time and maximising transfer capacity.
Aviation and land-based infrastructure
Intermodal travel solutions - connecting airlines with different transport options such as rail or bus are not new, but they haven’t been seamless. Now, the technology to develop the intermodal proposition to give travelers more sustainable and convenient choices is available.
Airlines as retailers can use intermodal partnerships to create an end-to-end passenger experience, but there is work to be done to integrate this content and make passengers aware it is available.
Improving customer options means establishing a comprehensive multimodal network proposition that is aligned with enabling optimized transfer of passengers at connecting points. There also needs to be robust servicing when things go wrong to enhance the customer experience.
For example, our connection service ensures that customers making any multimodal journey are covered in the event of disruption. This is not the case with most connected journeys today.
The main solutions for improving passenger transit on intermodal journeys are:
- Infrastructure design that facilitates and encourages modal transfer to make it as seamless, comfortable and convenient as possible.
- Integration of content such as schedules, tariffs and fare products so the customer is presented with a range of options to choose from.
- Customer-centric servicing capability that leverages technology and improves the experience today.
Airlines and travel retailers should be encouraged and incentivized to incorporate rail, road and ferry connections into their reservation systems. This would enable the extension of the network they are able to sell, presenting their customers more choices, including sustainable options.
Developing infrastructure and better integrating systems and content using technology is something we can start working on today.
With many innovative developments in the realm of airline distribution, it is now time to focus on growing intermodal connectivity to enable passengers, including future COP attendees, to make more sustainable and convenient travel choices.