Can taking the train to the Alps really be cheaper than flying? New research suggests it can…
In the age of EasyJet and Ryanair, it’s easy to assume that flying to the alps is a cheaper option than boarding the Eurostar. Which is why we were more than a little shocked to discover that it can actually be cheaper to take the train.
Independent rail-ski website Snowcarbon’s new research has found that train travel often has significant savings over flying. The research compares return fares from London to six ski resorts in different ski areas of the French Alps for each week between 19th December 2015 and 2nd April 2016. Three journey options were compared, for adults and for children (aged 4-11), with or without skis, starting at either Gatwick Airport or St Pancras International rail station, and ending at the Alpine accommodation door. These are:
- EasyJet flight + shared taxi transfer
- Daytime travel on the direct Eurostar Ski Train + private taxi
- Daytime travel on the new direct Eurostar service to Lyon + local train + private taxi.
- A family of four with two children (aged between 4 and 11) but without skis would pay a total of £1,956 for return air travel to La Plagne at Easter. Travelling on the direct Eurostar Ski Train instead, they would pay £1,132 – a saving of £824. Travelling via Lyon, meanwhile, would cost them only £756 in total.
- A group of four friends travelling to Meribel on 9th January, two with skis and two without, would pay £972 in total. Travelling on the direct Eurostar Ski Train would cost them £788, while travelling via Lyon instead would cost £644.
- Travelling to the resort of Les Gets at Feb half term, a family of four with kids aged between four and 11, travelling without skis would pay £2,882, in total. By contrast, travelling on the new train route via Lyon would cost them only £1,252 – less than half the price.
- Air travel for a Christmas escape would cost an adult couple, both bringing skis, £630. If they opted for the direct Ski Train, the cost would be higher, at £674. However, travelling via Lyon would cost them only £466.
- Calculated over the whole season, the average weekly cost for an adult travelling by plane to Alpe d’Huez, without skis, is £240. This compares to an average cost of £202 for adults travelling by train, via Lyon.
The full research, with prices for every date for all six resorts, can be seen here.
“Skiers often tell me that they would prefer to travel to the Alps by train, but imagine that it costs far more than flying,” says Snowcarbon Founder, Daniel Elkan.
“This research provides a useful snapshot-comparison of the costs and is quite an eye-opener. Unfortunately, the myth that it’s always cheaper to fly, combined with an over-complicated rail-ticket system, results in thousands of skiers flying in the mistaken belief that they are saving money. The reality is that skiers frequently end up unwittingly paying extra for a big dose of airport tedium – when in fact they could be pocketing savings and sitting in comfort on the train.”
Plane vs train price comparison methodology
The price research was carried out on 14th September 2015, for Saturday-to-Saturday dates from 19th December 2015 outbound until 9th April 2016 inbound.
All flights were EasyJet flights from and to Gatwick. Prices from Luton and Stansted were found to be similar, but not included in the research.
To provide a reasonable and fair comparison in terms of arrival and departure time to/from resort, flights were only selected within the following parameters:
* Outbound Journey: Flight must depart Gatwick 8am or later and land before 6pm.
* Inbound Journey: Flight must depart Europe 10am or later and land by 7pm or earlier.
NB: For the Turin flight, an exception was made to allow the earlier flight departing Turin at 9.25am and arrive before 10pm
For each flight, it was assumed one case of hold luggage (20kg or less).
Flight prices were searched on EasyJet’s website.
Train travel was for daytime journeys only, on the direct Eurostar Ski Train or the new direct Eurostar service to the French Alps.
Train prices were searched on Eurostar, Voyage SNCF and Loco2’s websites. These websites all have exactly the same fares.
The Lyon-Alps sections of the journeys are not bookable yet, but the prices for these are flat fares, provided by the Voyages SNCF press office and also double checked against live Autumn date prices.
Children aged 4-11 get discounted train travel (about 30% off the adult fare). On EasyJet flights departing the UK, children aged 2-11 pay £13 less than the adult fare.
All transfer and taxi prices were per person prices based on four people travelling together. Shared airport transfer prices from Geneva Airport were provided by Ski-Lifts (ski-lifts.com); from Grenoble and Turin airports by Shuttle Direct (shuttledirect.com), as shared options were unavailable. Taxi prices from train stations were the average from local taxi companies.