Business and Industry

The NY Times Discovers Low-Cost Euro Airlines

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Hit & Run stalwart and movie critic extraordinaire Alan Vanneman points to a NY Times article celebrating low-cost airlines in the Old World and notes, "Good bye high-speed trains, hello dirt-cheap planes." From Matt Gross' story:

O easyJet, how I love thee! You may be a big shot, but in your Airbus A319, you treated me like a human being (for 5,950 forints, or 12,350 after taxes and fees, about $68 at 182 forints to $1). You looked the other way at my excess baggage, and though you don't assign seats, you keep them spotless and roomy. Your flight attendants wore chic open-necked orange-and-gunmetal-gray shirts, and your in-flight magazine was professional and informative, with articles on percebes, the Spanish delicacy, and up-and-coming neighborhoods in Toulouse. "Come on," winks your magazine, "let's fly!" With you, baby? Anytime.

Whole thing here.

Former staffer and would-be eurotrasher Matt Welch gave Reason readers the skinny on flying Europe's frugal skies back–and what it meant for America–in January 2005. Read all about it.

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  1. But in Europe, that Southwest flight attendant who said, “Eeny meenie meiny mo, pick a seat, let’s go” would have been jailed for committing Hate Speech.

  2. It is amazing how cheaply you can fly here. I’ve taken HLX twice to Berlin for a fourth of what it would have cost to travel by train (and this is in a country where train travel is ubiquitous). No free food or drinks, and they try their best to get you to buy something from their merchandise catalogs, but they don’t harass you about it.

    Furthermore, one of those times I accidentally left a small knife in my carry-on. The security guys just let me go back to the counter and check the bag instead of confiscating the blade, which was a surprising change from the screaming TSA folks I’ve had to deal with in the US.

  3. Whoa, now – isn’t all that jet travel causing global warming? Don’t those Euros care about the planet?

    Or is it only American CO2 that kills baby polar bears?

  4. Reminds me of the folks in Texas who want to build a light rail between San Antonio and Dallas, so we’ll have “public transportation.”

    Their main problem was squeezing out enough subsidies so they could charge less than Southwest Airlines. And this was after government bought the rail line infrastructure.

    So far, it’s a no-go.

  5. I wonder how prices between rail and planes would compare if they included carbon taxes.

  6. I wonder how prices between rail and planes would compare if they included carbon taxes.

    Which one uses less energy per person per mile?

  7. Joe,

    I would bet they would be even cheaper. After all, in any transportation business, fuel is the biggest expense followed by labor then interest. Kerosene for jet, diesel for locomotives, both will wind up being 40-42% of overall costs. It’s actually fairly carbon neutral.

  8. R C,

    A train carrying the same number of passengers as a plane uses less energy per mile. Pretty obvious, if you think about it – the plane needs to use enough energy to provide lift for its mass and to travel 400+ mph, while the train just needs to overcome friction and travel much slower.

    But there are a couple of other factors to consider as well. First, greenhouse gasses releases high in the atmosphere cause more heating than an equivalent amount releases at or near ground level, for reasons that I haven’t quite figured out, but that seem to be universally accepted in the studies I managed to google. Second, rail can run off the power grid, which could include all sorts of clean energy, while jets are limited to burning fuel.

  9. RC,

    That should read “per passenger mile.”

  10. Carbon taxes: the biggest disincentive to human wealth, health, and prosperity dreamed up by the authoritarian left in generations.

  11. Have a little faith in the capacity of private enterprise to innovate in response to economic incentives, rob.

  12. Sorry to contradict you folks, but it has been proven that condensation trails by jet planes in the upper atmosphere actually reduces the temperature.

    The measurements were done immediately after 9/11 (there were no flights at all in the US) and the results were published in Nature.

    See article here:
    http://facstaff.uww.edu/travisd/pdf/jetcontrailsrecentresearch.pdf

  13. @ Joe: A train carrying the same number of passengers as a plane uses less energy per mile. Pretty obvious, if you think about it – the plane needs to use enough energy to provide lift for its mass and to travel 400+ mph, while the train just needs to overcome friction and travel much slower.

    Except that the added mass of the rail car means that you are moving 4 to 5 times the mass per PM in rail travel that you do with an airplane. Train are great at energy per PM compared to cars and trucks, but really are not better than a bus and similar to a plane.

  14. Muttley,

    The contrails are not the only consequence of the emissions from aircraft.

    scandalrag,

    That would depend on the number of passenger cars on the train, and whether the train is propelled by its own engine or running off of an electrical source (third rail or overhead).

  15. I’ll agree with joe. To the extent that carbon taxes account for negative externalities they can easily be an economic positive, even more so if we reduce existing taxes to be revenue-neutral. When you tax something, you get less of it. So taxes on wealth creation (labor, investment, and profit) are bad, taxes on consumption are less bad, and taxes on pollution are not bad at all, within reason.

  16. “That would depend on the number of passenger cars on the train, and whether the train is propelled by its own engine or running off of an electrical source (third rail or overhead).”

    It depends on any number of things. The efficiency of the engine in converting fuel to motive power, the ratio of cargo weight to vehicle weight, the fact that planes can travel in relatively straight lines while a train must follow the contours of the land. A train being electric only helps if the energy source for the electricity is not hydrocarbons. There are many variables to consider in comparing these systems.

    I don’t know offhand how planes and trains compare as CO2, but I would hazard to guess that if these cheap airlines are making any money, the energy costs are at least comparable.

  17. Interesting timing for that article in the NY Times; appearing right after this one.

    US business travelers’ train travel increasing … outside the US

    Interesting exerpts:

    “In contrast to the stressful turmoil of airline travel, rail trips,
    when done right, can be both efficient and civilized, as travelers
    like Mr. Smith can attest. They can even be cultural when passengers
    mingle and talk while viewing scenery through picture windows.”

    “You just don’t fly anymore between Paris and Brussels — they’re that
    close on a TGV-type Thalys train,” said Nico Zenner of Travel Bound, a
    New York travel package wholesaler. “It takes one hour and 20 minutes
    instead of the old three hours. And it’s got everything, including
    Wi-Fi.”

    I wonder if the cheap air tickets in Europe could be partially due to the government-subsidized competition from trains?

  18. In fairness to the NYT, the article did mention FlyLC.com, which is a godsend to anyone trying to figure out which unknown airlines might exist in a given random city.

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