Plane vs High-Speed Train: Experts Pit Air France Against TGV In a Race

It’s a long-standing rivalry for short-haul travelers — hop on a speedy plane or relax on a train? While most people have their preferences, in France the rules have been changed to force the hand of those who prefer jet-setting to rail travel. In May 2023, the French government banned any domestic flight routes where an existing competing train route under 2½ hours is available. The ban was put in place in order to reduce aircraft emissions, but the move irked airline officials, with the Paris-to-Marseille route being one of the few remaining routes serviced by Air France and high-speed TGV trains. The new rule got the attention of the team at The Points Guy (TPG), which frequently stages high-speed races. They decided to compare traveling from Paris to Marseille by plane and TGV by setting up a race for the 481-mile journey. Two competitors would ride the two modes of transportation and see who arrived first. Traveling on the TGV was Nicky Kelvin, who paid £151 ($192.68) for a business-premiere seat, and traveling on Air France was Liam Spencer, who paid £138 ($176.09) for an economy ticket. The TGV high-speed train traveled at speeds of up to 199mph and took a zippy 3 hours 18 minutes. The upsides of the trip included no security or immigration procedures, which made boarding quick and easy. Nicky went to the dining carriage and treated himself to a train picnic — a grilled cheese and ham sandwich, yogurt, a cookie, and coffee — for approximately £15 ($19.14). The train was comfortable, smooth, and quiet, with plenty of space to rest and work. As for the flight on Air France, Liam was offered a complimentary cup of coffee and a cookie, despite his air-time only being one hour. Unfortunately, the Air France flight lost to the TGV by 20 minutes.