4th June 2021 by Simon Richardson
Going back to 2019, I was travelling a lot for work, and accumulating somewhere in the region of 60 flights per year. For me it was easy, it was more or less always the same route and I could see my schedule for at least 3 to 6 months ahead, so I would spend a day booking up flights, bulk ordering airport parking and hotel bookings, and to be fair there wasn’t much fluctuation in the prices I was seeing and paying.
Last March was the last time that I was still in my usual flight routine, and then it all stopped for the reasons we are all very much aware of. May 2020 was the last time I flew, which although was very early on in the pandemic, gave a real indication of how everything had changed and in principle “turned off”. I had driven back to the UK from Austria for what was a few hours in the UK before heading back over the channel to Paris where I could leave the rental car and get a flight back to Austria. Why Paris? Availability was so small for flights from the UK to Germany and nothing was available to get into Austria, so Paris was the only way to get as close to home as I could, which to be fair still involved a 15 hour day of travelling. I flew from Paris to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Vienna, a train from Vienna to Salzburg, another train from Salzburg to Zell am See and then a taxi home. All in all a good trip considering the situation.
Airlines have sat their planes on the tarmac for months, you see articles in the news showing their catastrophic financial results for the last quarter, the investments they require to see sunnier times, and those sunnier times will come, I’m very optimistic about that.
The real time when we will see more schools starting to get back out there participating and having a truly enriching experience will hopefully be in Winter 2022. I think it’s safe to say we are all looking forward to that. What we have experienced of late shows the short term effects of the pandemic and the move to more stable times where capacity and costs will increase and hopefully decrease, but we are for the short term going to have to compromise and accept that what we are used to when it comes to flying is going to take a while to get back to normal.
For peak dates we are receiving prices we have never seen before, just huge, and after 25 years in this industry and sector quite frankly I’ve never seen anything like it. Outside of peak times we are seeing something more reflective in price that we are used to. I don’t blame the airlines and their yield teams, it is what it is and they need to make a living, but it also highlights the current lack of availability and their shameless approach to pricing and their route to bringing their books back into the black.
As a tour operator I feel it’s our responsibility to be upfront and look for a solution, which actually already exists – Travelling by Coach.
Coach travel is still very popular for all age groups and will continue to be for the short, mid and long term, so I thought I would steer the conversation to drive some focus, indicating why it’s a wheely good option (sorry I could resist…)
Let’s pre-empt the negatives of using a coach for your ski trip first - It takes longer than travelling by air. The distance is the same, but the thought of being on a coach for up to 24 hours is off putting for some. There’s no getting away from that and I’m not here to tell you we can change that because we can’t, but when you look at the pros and cons, that is the only “con”
Now lets take a look at the positives -
Everyone in one place
From the moment you leave school you have your own area and can manage your students in an effective way. Communicating becomes easy during the journey and whilst you are on tour. Logistically you save time and the students have a “safe” zone as a point of reference.
The coach is at your disposal throughout the duration of your trip, it allows certain flexibility when it comes to your itinerary, where you can stay, what additional activities you want to do and the odd ad hoc requirement that might arise.
Reduces the variables
You are relying on one mode of transport, which reduces the number of transitions and environments the group go through to get to and from resort, and at the same time increases certainty i.e. your baggage is always with you and can’t be lost or delayed by the airline, a ferry is smaller than an airport, there is storage space that travels around with you to keep skis and boots safe
Economically and Climate efficient
Coach travel is better for the climate than air, and generally by all accounts will always leave you with more cash in your pocket without sacrificing the time you spend on the slopes, the quality you receive from the accommodation you stay at, or the services you receive in resort, in one of many ways it can actually make your time in resort and on your trip better.
I think it’s only fair as a tour operator that we highlight what is happening around us and offer a solution. Coach travel isn’t for every group, but it’s still how the highest percentage of school ski groups travel to European resorts and in many cases it has little do to with budgets and more to do with the security and flexibility coach travel provides.
At True north we use high quality coach operators who know how to work with school groups, we are also avid fans of using coaches for our tours, because the same principles and benefits apply to you are the same for us, which allows us to maintain our high service standards.
I’m looking forward like everyone else to some free movement in the coming months, I feel immensely positive about the future, even if with the small compromises!
True North offer top ski destinations by coach to Austria and Italy. We source our coach requirements through a reputable operator that we feel offers great service and drivers. All our groups who travel by ferry have a meal included on the ferry for the inbound journey from France to the UK as standard.Why True North?
- S.A.M. Our revolutionary trip platform
- 1:10 ski instructor to student ratio
- British Standard 8848:2014 compliant
- Detailed trip Risk Assessments provided at confirmation
- Single point of contact
- 100% financial protection - Your money held in "Trust"