Climate change activists “congratulate” rail passengers for not flying

By Dirk Singer / October 31, 2022

The latest tactic by climate change activists doesn’t involve protesting at airports. Instead they have been showing up at train stations to ‘congratulate’ people for not flying.

Greenpeace turned up at Paris Gare de Lyon station to welcome TGV passengers coming from Milan, Mulhouse, Nice and Marseille, with signs saying things like “Bravo ! La Planète vous dit merci” (Bravo! The planet thanks you).

Meanwhile in London’s St Pancras Station, climate group Flight Free UK said “thank you for not flying” to Eurostar passengers going to Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris.

It’s a smart way for these groups to push sustainable travel and the idea of lowering your carbon footprint.  They are not saying don’t go on vacation – a negative message of denial that doesn’t resonate well with a lot of consumers.Instead their message is go on vacation, but take the train.

And train companies themselves are starting to latch onto the fact that sustainable travel is a marketing tool for them.  

This comes as research consistently shows growing awareness among consumers that flying drastically increases their carbon footprint. As a result, train companies are now selling tickets by directly promoting rail travel as better for the planet.


Swap your flight for the train pledge

The most recent example is Trainline (which is a European rail booking service as opposed to a train operator). Trainline has unveiled a website called “I came by train”, with the tagline, “save the planet, one journey at a time.” The website includes a pledge for you to swap a flight for a train journey. 

If you fill it in (which as an aside, involves giving up your email address), Trainline plants a tree, via offsetting partner “onHand.”

The whole campaign is even underpinned by a video and song by Craig David titled, “Better Days, I came by train”, showing that this is a heavyweight and high budget piece of activity.

On the form itself you are invited to say why you took the train, options include “coastal cities are for people, not fish”, “melting ice is good for G&Ts and not ice caps” and “penguins shouldn’t be sunbathing.”

swap train for flight pledge climate change rail travel

Airlines themselves are of course starting to integrate their networks with that of train companies.  For example, Star Alliance signed up Deutsche Bahn as the first rail member of the airline alliance.  And KLM/Air France works with the Thalys high speed rail network.

In the light of the campaigns we’ve been seeing, these collaborations make a lot of sense.

They tie into the current existing consumer sentiment, and show that airlines want to offer lower carbon alternatives for the final part of the journey, where possible. As a result, we expect (and encourage) a lot more of these airline / train links.

(Top images via Greenpeace France)

More aviation-specific sustainability updates and analysis can be found in our twice-weekly Sustainability In The Air newsletter, led by SimpliFlying’s Research Director Dirk Singer. Do subscribe to our send-out to stay on top of the latest trends.

Suggested Articles

A take on the IPCC Report. Looking at it in isolation leads ...


Jeremy Bowen, CEO of Cirium in conversation with Shashank Ni ...


Can aviation ever be ‘clean’? Four industry insiders giv ...


Report: The Rise of Green Travel 2023 – 2028

No, thanks