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A roadmap toward sustainable mobility

3-minute read

September 12, 2022

Remember how Greta Thunberg’s trip home on a crowded German train in 2019 sparked a new wave of interest in the mobility world? It could be that her “flygskam,” or flight shame, caused this rippling effect throughout societies, which has now led to the rethinking and reshaping of traditional aviation concepts.

Empty skies and highways during the pandemic certainly had a positive impact on the environment. The question is how the sustainability aspect can be maintained as travel is ramping up again. There are ways by which airlines and rail companies can pave the way to the future of sustainable mobility – one of them: intermodality.

Let’s dive deep into how that can be done.

Enter Intermodality

Intermodality is a combination of different modes of transport into one single seamless travel experience. The long and short of it is that less pollution is achieved if you replace one means of travel with a more environmentally friendly one. Consider taking a train from Stuttgart to Frankfurt and then flying to New York, instead of taking two flights. But there’s more in it for the customer: a better booking process, a higher service quality and, as mentioned, a reduction in carbon emissions. Let’s have a look.

  1. A one-stop shop

    When it comes to travel, it is all about getting the most out of the travel budget throughout the entire booking process. Instead of hopping from one app to another, today’s travelers expect a seamlessly bookable experience. Offering two travel segments with different transportation modes, from two different providers, but from a single source, brings the customer one step closer to the old dream of having one single ticket from your home to your final destination.

  2. E2E customer service

    Besides a seamless booking experience, having two different transportation modes on one ticket is very advantageous to the traveler and allows travel providers to offer the best service experience. Let’s say if a train is delayed and the connecting flight would be affected, the passenger would automatically and in real time be rebooked to the next flight. There is no need for the traveler to call a hotline or queue at crowded airline counters.

  3. Modal shifts in short-haul passenger travel

    Short-haul flights have higher carbon emission levels per passenger and traveled kilometer than long-haul flights. From this perspective it’s even more important to initiate – and continue – the modal shift on short-haul travel from air to rail. The easier airlines and rail companies can make it for passengers to combine the train with the plane, the more short-haul flights will be avoided. This not only benefits the traveler, but also the environment. It’s a true win-win situation.

Advantages for Travel Companies

Travelling will remain vital for networking in the business world, but it needs to encompass eco-friendly solutions. Integrating mobility services offers several benefits, to our planet and to businesses:

  1. There are commercial opportunities for airlines to swap short-haul feeder flights by offering train tickets. It can be commercially more attractive to resell a train ticket, instead of offering a short-haul feeder flight just to transport passengers to their connecting long-haul flight.
  2. Enhanced customer service goes a long way. When both airlines and rail providers offer a more personalized and flexible solution (e.g., automatic rebooking), they are opening the door to additional services like coupons to the lounge in case of a delayed flight, door-to-door luggage transportation or upselling opportunities – along the full intermodal customer journey.
  3. Consumers love transparency. Imagine an app with price comparisons and visibility of the journey’s end-to-end carbon emissions. This is the chance to help passengers push toward making conscious choices.
  4. Collecting data along the customer journey and using several transportation modes will help travel companies get a more holistic view of their travelers’ behavior, including the chance to detect patterns and adjust their services accordingly (e.g. for dynamic pricing).

Finding Ways to Maintain Sustainable Mobility

To streamline their processes and make a positive contribution, modern business executives are constantly looking for ways to be sustainable – environmentally, financially, and socially.

Removing travel from a business model is simply not feasible, but with trains’ popularity on the rise, this is a golden opportunity for holistic integration. Airlines and railway companies shaking hands could bring the customer experience to the next level while contributing to saving the planet. The earlier, the better.

So, let’s spark the conversation – not tomorrow, but now.

Thank you to my colleagues who have significantly contributed to the development of this blog post – Henning Radermacher, Josephine von Roesgen, Jonas Drewitz, and David Sen.

Henning Radermacher | LinkedIn

Josephine von Roesgen | LinkedIn

Jonas Drewitz | LinkedIn

David Sen | LinkedIn


Marcus Fromm

Managing Director – Mobility, Travel and Logistics, Switzerland