• Qatar Airways has signed a codeshare agreement with German rail firm Deutsche Bahn.
  • Under the deal, passengers can travel from Frankfurt airport to eight German cities by train.
  • Such schemes could help the transport sector reduce emissions as it looks to transition to net zero carbon emissions.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome aboard this Frankfurt to Stuttgart service. Our journey time will be 1 hour 20 minutes and we will be cruising at an altitude of... zero feet. This plane is, in fact, a train.”

This announcement may sound like a flight of fancy, but many Qatar Airways passengers making onward trips from Frankfurt airport will now be looking for their flight numbers on the side of a train instead of a plane departure board.

Qatar signed a codeshare deal with German rail firm Deutsche Bahn (DB) to make its tickets valid for rail journeys to eight German cities.

The airline already flies direct to Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich. But now, tickets will be valid for onward travel on high-speed trains with Qatar flight numbers from Frankfurt to Cologne, Dusseldorf, Hannover, Hamburg, Leipzig, Munich, Nuremberg and Stuttgart.

The deal builds on Qatar’s existing participation in DB’s Rail & Fly programme, under which passengers can buy flights that include an open ticket for train journeys from the airport to their final destination in Germany.

Down to earth

The term codeshare was coined in 1989 when Qantas and American Airlines agreed to sell seats on each other’s flights, with each airline using their own flight number for the same journey.

The agreements allow airlines to add new destinations to their networks at a fraction of the cost of buying new planes, and offer customers more choice. And while they have been criticized for sometimes causing confusion at departure gates and limiting competition on less well-used routes, a European Union review found they were advantageous to both customers and airlines.

The Qatar deaI is the latest example of airline companies extending these deals to rail operators.

In the United States, United Airlines has a codeshare with rail operator Amtrak for passengers travelling from its hub at Newark to cities in Connecticut, Delaware and Pennsylvania. Travellers can even earn airline mileage points for the train segment of their journeys.

And in Europe, Dutch airline KLM and Austrian Airlines have made similar moves.

carbon dioxide emissions sector
CO2 emissions by sector or source
Image: Our World in Data

The journey to net zero

As well as the logistical benefits to airlines and customers, such schemes could help airlines cut CO2 emissions by providing an alternative to some domestic flights, which could help companies in the sector as aviation and other industries around the globe transition towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Aviation

What is the World Economic Forum doing to reduce aviation's carbon footprint?

As other sectors proceed to decarbonize, the aviation sector could account for a much higher share of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by mid-century than its 2%-3% share today. With the number of air travel passengers expected to double by 2035, there's a strong urgency for the aviation industry to act to ensure it can meet this demand in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) can reduce the life-cycle carbon footprint of aviation fuel by up to 80%, but they currently make up less than 0.1% of total aviation fuel consumption. Enabling a shift from fossil fuels to SAFs will require a significant increase in production, which is a costly investment.

Launched in September 2019, the Forum’s Clean Skies for Tomorrow (CST) Coalition is a global initiative driving the transition to sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) as part of the aviation industry’s ambitious efforts to achieve carbon-neutral flying.

Run in collaboration with the Energy Transitions Commission and the Rocky Mountain Institute, with the Air Transport Action Group as an advisory partner, CST brings together government leaders, climate experts and CEOs from aviation, energy, finance and other sectors who agree on the urgent need to help the aviation industry reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Learn more about the Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition's impact and contact us to find out how you can get involved.

The aviation industry produces around 2% of all human-induced CO2 emissions and 12% of all CO2 emissions from the transport sector. This is a fraction of the emissions from road transport, which is responsible for three-quarters of all emissions from the sector.

The airline industry has committed to reducing net carbon emissions to half 2005 levels by 2050 and improving fleet fuel efficiency by 1.5% a year.

The World Economic Forum’s Mission Possible Platform says it’s technically and economically feasible for transport, including aviation and sectors like heavy-duty road transport and shipping, to become net carbon neutral by 2050. But urgent action must be taken to achieve that goal.