AVE Train vs Flights in Spain - a comparison

Which is better? Taking an internal flight or taking the AVE train?

AVE in Spain
••• AVE in Spain. Image: Mikelo (Creative Commons). Some Rights Reserved

The AVE train is one of the quickest and most efficient ways of getting around Spain. In many cases, it's quicker than flying. And it's certainly more environmentally friendly. On this page you will find a comparison of flying in Spain compared with taking an internal flight.

For this comparison, I took the Madrid-Seville route, the oldest and most popular AVE route. Travel times by air and AVE between Madrid and Seville are roughly the same - the flight is one hour while the train takes two hours and thirty minutes, but when you add on check-in time, collecting your luggage and the other general time-wasting associated with flying, the times are quite comparable.

See AVE v Train Travel Time Comparison The bus takes six hours to get from Madrid to Seville (but is much cheaper).

See also:

Madrid to Barcelona by AVE or Flight? A Different Ball Game

Everything below on this page is about routes other than the Madrid to Barcelona route. If traveling from Madrid to Valencia or from Seville to Madrid, the advice on this page holds true. But if you are traveling on the famous Madrid-Barcelona route, there's actually a rival to the AVE train: the Air Shuttle from Iberia.

Read more about Madrid to Barcelona by Plane or Train?

Advantages of the AVE over flying

  • No need to check in an hour before your departure.
  • The train station is almost always in the center of the city - airports invariably are not. You therefore can get to your final destination much quicker (unless the airport is your final destination!) See also: AVE vs Flying - Travel Time Comparison
  • More environmentally friendly than flying.
  • AVE train is more spacious than the plane.
  • Last minute tickets by AVE are cheaper than flying. More: AVE vs Flying - Price Comparison
  • You get to watch DVDs during the journey on the AVE (as long as you speak Spanish)

Disadvantages of the AVE compared with flying

  • If booking in advance, it is cheaper to fly, especially when the airlines have a special offer on.
  • Service doesn't yet cover the whole country.

Price Comparison

Booking flights well in advance will usually get you the cheapest price, but last minute tickets are much cheaper by AVE. The following price inquiries were all done on January 9, 2008. The airline used was Iberia.

As you will see, for travel in the next week, the AVE is cheaper. After that, flights are cheaper. Note that this is off-season. In the summer these prices will likely be much higher and even sold out. I will repeat this price comparison during the summer to see how the results differ.

Ticket Prices for Traveling Today

Book your tickets in person at the station, from Rail Europe or renfe.es.

  • AVE Ticket Price: 71.70€ Buy Direct
  • Plane Ticket Price: 245€


Ticket Prices for Traveling Tomorrow

  • AVE Ticket Price: 71.70€ Buy Direct
  • Plane Ticket Price: 245€


Ticket Prices for Traveling Next Week

  • AVE Ticket Price: 71.70€ Buy Direct
  • Plane Ticket Price: 37€


Ticket Prices for Traveling in Two Weeks

  • AVE Ticket Price: 71.70€ Buy Direct
  • Plane Ticket Price: 37€


Ticket Prices for Next Month

  • AVE Ticket Price: 71.70€ Buy Direct
  • Plane Ticket Price: 37€


Ticket Prices for in Three Months

  • AVE Ticket Price: Prices not available. AVE tickets cannot be booked more than 62 days in advance.
  • Plane Ticket Price: 37€

Travel Time Comparison

Madrid to Barcelona? If traveling on between Spain's two most famous , the facts below don't apply as Spain's most important transport route has Iberia's Air Shuttle to compete with the AVE train. Read more about Madrid to Barcelona by Plane or Train?

Journey time for Madrid-Seville Flight

  • Travel from city center to airport: 30 minutes (by taxi, perhaps longer by metro)
  • Getting into the airport: 10 minutes (Madrid airport is big and laid back in such a way that you need to spend extensive time on conveyor belts).
  • Check-in time: 45 minutes
  • Taxiing time: 10 minutes
  • Flight time: 1 hour
  • Taxiing time: 10 minutes
  • Baggage collection time: 15 minutes
  • Getting out of the airport: 5 minutes
  • Getting to the city center 15 minutes
    Total travel time: 3 hours 20 minutes

Journey time for Madrid-Seville AVE train

  • Getting from the city center to the train station: 10 minutes
  • Getting into the train station: 2 minutes
  • 'Check-in' time: 5 minutes
  • Journey time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Getting out of the train station: 2 minutes
  • getting to the city center: 10 minutes
    Total travel time: 2 hours 59 minutes