Belgian university bans staff from short flights

Belgian university bans staff from short flights

The University of Antwerp will now prohibit its staff from flying to destinations that can be reached with a train journey of less than eight hours. Staff who intend to attend congresses or conferences in Switzerland, for example, would be obliged to travel by train.

For the staff of the Flemish university, this means that flights to locations such as Hamburg, Munich, Marseilles, and Manchester will now be out of the question.

This decision was made by the university’s executive council though some exceptions will be made. For example, if the staff member needs to stay somewhere overnight along the train journey, then a flight can be used for the return.

Even for journeys of 10 hours or more, such as to Nice or Barcelona, the university is still recommending that its staff take the train, even though this is not compulsory.

“A plane trip weighs seven to eleven times more on the environment than the same trip by train,” the university said. “And the difference is still great over short travel distances, less than 700 kilometres.”

The environmental cost of academia

Rector of the university, Herman Van Goethem, says that the decision marks an important step in reducing the environmental impact of the educational institution. “We encourage our employees to attend conferences or online courses. But of course, personal contact remains important and physical presence often has added value. Sometimes, it is also necessary.”

One university lecturer, from the Department of Computer Science, said that they travelled to the Danish Velje in 2019 by train. “I was on the road for 13 hours but I didn’t feel like I was wasting time. Most of the time, I had a big table all to myself. I was able to work without problems like this,” Professors Els Laenens said.

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The University of Antwerp says that it is working with a travel agency to help plan its train journeys. The university has compiled a list of cities which are accessible by train from Antwerp. As such, university staff can save time and see the travel times from Antwerp Central station.

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