Domestic Flights in Germany: Waste.

For my recent trip to Berlin, the usual business travel scheme was straightforward: Flight + Hotel. Flight seems to be the default even for domestic flights within Germany because it suggests saving a lot of time. But is this true?

  1. My first reflex against this default was triggered by my bad feeling about the CO2 footprint. So I booked the train from Ludwigsburg via Stuttgart to Berlin. With the new direct connection Stuttgart – Berlin, the choice for the train was obvious.
  2. The second thought was about the time I’d spend during my trip. I had quite a lot on my reading list, on my work todo list and wanted to sketch some ideas. Plenty of time on the train looked promising.

For both aspects, my choice totally worked out for me!

The saved time with the flight is highly overrated.

Only a few people spontaneously believed my calculation. They only compared a 1-hour flight to a 5-hour train ride. So I drew the travel time for both choices side-by-side.

Comparing the quality time

The trips both start at the Ludwigsburg office and end in the Berlin hotel at Gleisdreieck. Here’s how to read it:

Blocked times (cannot read, write, relax here) are red. Busy times (no realistic chance to concentrate on something) are orange. Quality time is green.

Quality Time – comparing flight with train from Ludwigsburg to Berlin

With a slightly later start in Ludwigsburg, a colleague would arrive only 1:20 hours earlier, with much less time to work and relax.

Sorting the blocks by their quality (right side) shows: Compared to the train ride, the quality time on a flight is small and topped with lots of busy transfer time. Looking at it from the perspective of mindfulness, you could read it like this:

With a flight, you’re kept busy all the time, which makes you tired although you probably haven’t done much.

Surprising? For your next short-trip, make your choice.

Mind our planet

Besides saving your own time, protecting our all environment is a generally valid aspect. An airplane carries many people, but it burns a huge amount of fossil energy.

While different sources propose different footprints, the factors reach from double to six times the CO2 for a flight than for a usual train ride Stuttgart – Berlin.

Deutsche Bahn serves long-distance trains on renewable energy.

How you can drop this to zero: With Deutsche Bahn. Long-distant trains run with renewable power1.

How the prices compare

This is something, Deutsche Bahn needs to work on! A standard fare for the train is about double the price compared to a regular flight.

BahnCard 50 easily drops this price, but it’s still a crazy thing that flying is cheaper than taking the train.


My personal conclusion to this experiment:
– I got a lot of stuff done and enjoyed the time on the train, so my choice was a good one.
– Best takeaway: Quality time was long enough to gain a lot of headspace. Read more about the outcome here: “Get life structured: Track what’s important to you!“.
– CO2 footprint is definitely something I want to cut as much as possible, so the train is my best alternative for this distance.
– The price difference does not justify compromising the quality time or carbon footprint.
– For the next trip, I’ll wisely choose and not default to what the company would book.

How would you choose?

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