for the Easter weekend the trains are full “like in 19”

Christophe Fanichet, CEO of SNCF Voyageurs, revealed the trend a week ago, and it has now been confirmed: SNCF is back to its pre-crisis traffic levels for the spring holidays, even slightly exceeding 2019 levels. The Easter weekend should be just as busy. A good omen for the summer holidays.

For this holiday period, which is spread over April 8th and 9th due to school zones, SNCF announces that it has sold 7.2 million long-distance train tickets. This corresponds to a growth of 3% compared to 2019. The contrast to last year is stark, with three times as many tickets sold. Still, it has to be said that the 2021 spring break fell entirely into the third national lockdown.

SNCF concerned about weakness in business travel

late decision

At the beginning of April, the SNCF had already sold almost 5 million tickets. The momentum then continued with 2.5 million more reservations in the past two weeks. The SNCF, like other long-distance transport companies, sees purchases getting closer to the departure date. Travelers therefore tend to delay their decision until before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Easter also contributes strongly to this dynamic. For this long weekend, the SNCF announces that it has sold more than a million tickets. It is as much as before the crisis. It thus indicates that no fewer than 2,500 trains, TGV and Intercités, will run over the three days.

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Online shopping is booming

Despite the well-known fiasco at the launch of the SNCF Connect application, whose numerous malfunctions have caused the anger of travelers, SNCF announces that online sales have skyrocketed. They have increased by 21% compared to 2019, with more than 8.3 million tickets (TGV, Intercités and TER) sold on the website and in the application. This digitization of sales also contributes to late purchase decisions: 40% of the tickets booked via the app were booked in the weeks leading up to the trip.

For its part, a few days ago, the reservation platform Trainline recorded a 12% growth in sales for the Easter holiday period compared to 2019. In a press release, it therefore noted strong momentum, with a growth in reservations to Lyon, Montpellier and Aix-en-Provence in France, as well as Amsterdam and Brussels in Europe.

Trainline also found that half of the stays are less than or equal to three days and 30% are between 4 and 7 days. The average ticket price is 48 euros and the platform notes a significant drop in fares on the Paris-Lyon (-23%) and Lyon-Paris (-30%) routes, as the competition from Trenitalia arrives at the end of 2021.

The holidays also mark the launch of the ‘Ouigo classic train’, which now connects Paris to Lyon and Nantes with candy pink Coral trains. The program includes longer journey times and numerous stops, but reduced prices with fixed prices in the context of high inflation in France.

SNCF launches its low-cost Ouigo service for Paris-Lyon and Paris-Nantes

Plane and train ready for the summer

As a result, this dynamic is increasing in line with the first quarter, when the railways were transporting almost as many leisure travelers as three years ago. On the other hand, concerns remain for business travelers, whose traffic levels are still 50% lower than in 2019.

The dynamics of the spring holidays should continue after the first tendencies in reservations for the summer period. These correspond to those of 2019, as Christophe Fanichet indicated last week, indicating that at the moment it is only a few percent.

Summer trends are also well up in the air, with tickets being reserved longer in advance (although time has also shortened with the crisis). Air France is thus posting higher booking rates than 2019, while low-cost companies are multiplying route announcements.

This is also the case with Easyjet, which is currently growing strongly due to the reduction of health restrictions with the British market, the leading provider of tourists in France. The company hopes to regain 100% of its 2019 capacity this summer. In March it was already at 80%.