New flying policy to take effect this year: university bans short flights

13 Mar 2020 ,

From September, the Executive Board wants staff to stop flying to destinations that are less than seven hours away by train. All bookings will be handled centrally by an outside travel agency.

As of September, university staff will no longer be able to simply jump on a plane to Lyon. The train journey to Lyon in southern France takes less than seven hours, which means that flying there will no longer be an option as of next year. The same applies to work trips to London, Zurich and Berlin.

Putting a stop to short flights is one of the measures that the Executive Board will introduce next year. Only ‘compelling’ reasons will exempt staff from this seven-hour rule.

A recommendation from the Radboud Green Office prompted the new flight policy. The Executive Board has since adopted the recommendation, which will be discussed with faculties and participation bodies in the coming months.

Seven hours

Thijmen Sietsma, Green Office coordinator and author of the recommendation: ‘Many staff members have said that they would be willing to avoid flying if they can get to their destination within seven hours by some other means. The seven-hour limit is also in line with the travel time stipulated in the flight policy of other universities.’

The university plans to hire an outside travel agency to manage staff bookings. A tender is currently underway for this purpose. It is possible that the agency will also arrange hotel and rental car bookings.

An important and additional advantage of having a centralised travel agency is that the university will finally gain insight into the travel behaviour of staff members. ‘Privacy legislation makes it impossible for us to keep a record of how much staff members book flights’, said Marije Klomp, programme director for sustainability. ‘We’re not allowed to view the travel declarations.’ In future, the travel agency’s central records will enable the bookings to be monitored and evaluated anonymously.

Research study

Because travel data was not available, the starting point for the new flight policy was formed by the graduation research of two students from the HAN University of Applied Sciences. The students conducted a survey, which was completed by 391 university staff members. Respondents reported that a quarter of all their booked flights consisted of distances of less than 700 kilometres. In principle, these are trips that must be made using some other mode of transport under the new policy.

Based on the results of the students’ study, the new travel policy could save the university an estimated 10 percent of its total CO2 emissions. The university also wants to compensate for the CO2 that is still being emitted. ‘But we don’t want to regard it as a form of emissions trading,’ says Klomp. ‘It’s about flying less.’

For the time being, the Executive Board is not setting any money aside to fund the more sustainable – and more expensive – trips by staff members (an international train ticket often costs more than a plane ticket). Direct flights also cause less pollution, but tend to be more expensive than flights involving one or more transfers. ‘As things stand, faculties will have to bear these additional costs themselves’, said Klomp. “They also have room in the budget for that. A possible upshot of this is that people will travel less.’

At the same time, Klomp emphasised that people will still be allowed to fly next year. ‘Travel is part of an academic’s work. You need to fly to advance your career and to exchange knowledge. But staff members will have to take a critical look at their travel behaviour and ask whether each trip is really necessary.’

One way to encourage staff members to travel less is to make video-conferencing facilities available. ‘There are already four locations on campus that are suitable for this purpose,’ said Sietsma. ‘But so far they’re not being used much. We’re going to find out why, as well as investigate what staff want in this respect.’

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