” There is no alternative to flying, especially for cross-continental travel. You can’t expect people to go back to boats.
Two journalists raced from central London to central Paris. The one who went by train (using Eurostar) got there before the one who flew, and the cost was roughly the same.
Until the 1990s most people who went to France and onwards to other continental countries went by ferry. The ferry companies operated from lots of southern ports and competed vigorously with each other. Then came the Channel Tunnel and the competition got hotter. The ferry companies slashed their prices and became even cheaper and more comfortable. People would even pop across to France for the weekend. Though generally we took longer foreign holidays. Once in France, of course, it was considered easy to drive long distances. Or you could pop the car on the train – or travel by train without it, anywhere and easily.
Then along came the low-cost airlines. Within a few years we have got used to nipping across the Channel by air, at a frequency unthinkable a few years ago – so much so that airports are now becoming crowded and unpleasant. If you have ever been badly delayed, or diverted, or held up by security checks, you will know what I mean. In fact, given the need to get to airports earlier and earlier before a flight, the total travel time for a lot of continental journeys can be greater by air than by rail and even by ferry in some cases. (Try flying to Normandy.)
It is true that to travel right across Europe to, say, Hungary is bound to be quicker by air than by train and ferry. But speed isn’t everything, is it? There is a now growing movement towards ‘slow travel’, getting from place to place at a pace that creates no stress and is actually enjoyable. Many people are taking the train to Italy, say, rather than the plane; and counting their blessings. The process of travelling can be half the enjoyment. A comfortable ferry journey followed by a train ride is something to look forward to. There is no reason why we should be frightened of switching from flying will cost a great deal more than it does now. Oil is now over $100 a barrel, unthinkable a while ago. Some predict that it will double in price within a year or so. “
Alastair Sawday (2008: 65-66) What About China?