On Flying in the Age of Security, or Trains Are More Fun


As odd this may seem, I hadn’t flown in airplane since before 9/11. Until yesterday. I’m spending a week in York, England, and flew from Grenoble, the airport nearest my home in the French Alps, to Leeds, the airport nearest York. It was a horrendous experience, especially because the airport at Grenoble was incredibly crowded, but also because of all the time wasted when you travel by air.

Beyond the security circus, which makes things take so long in airports, I realized that there is another way. Give the excellent train service in much of Europe, and the amount of time you lose at airports, taking a train can, in many cases, be much more practical.

There are no high-speed trains that go where I live, but there are night trains. I could take a train from my town to Paris, overnight, arrive in Paris at 6 AM, take the Eurostar to London, then get a train to York. While the overnight trip is long, I could sleep through it. This means that the “waking travel time”would be about four hours, plus the time between the stations in Paris. Compare that to the time it took me yesterday. It was three hours to get to the Grenoble airport; two hours waiting online to check bags and security checks; two hours for the flight, plus an hour’s delay; a half hour to get my luggage; and two hours to get from Leeds to York. Granted, if I were going to a city that has an airport, I wouldn’t have needed those two hours at the end of the trip. But the time wasted at the airport is time that could be better spent in other ways. And even if taking a train is a little bit longer, you don’t waste any time with baggage checks, security checks and all the rest of the security circus. And you get to keep your shoes on.

So next time I travel to York — which will be soon — I’m going to try using the rails.