I read an article recently in the Daily Mail that covered the story of a young professional who ran the numbers and concluded it was cheaper for him to live in sunny Barcelona and take a FLIGHT to work four days a week than it was to rent a one bed flat in London!
That person compared a 1 bed flat in West Hampstead plus council tax, to a 3 bed in Les Corts, a nice neighborhood of Barcelona. Why the numbers seem reasonable, they were only calculated for November, so I can see a few flaws, mainly that he is flying Ryanair, and Ryanair does not always have cheap flights.
If you book 6-8 weeks in advance, you may score a good deal, that is not guaranteed, unlike the price of a rail ticket. So comes December, when air traffic increases as workers are going home for Christmas, so will the fares. Will it still be sustainable to commute by plane then? Let’s not even talk about the summer days, when flights are expensive from mid June to September.
The second flaw I see to this system is Ryanair is one of the worst companies to fly with, and they are often late, or very late. When I used to travel almost every weekend overseas, I flew Ryanair a great deal. Generally, the first flight of the morning leaves on schedule, and then delays cramp up as the day goes by. So while he could get to work on time, he could also get home two or three hours later than expected, meaning a lot of stress, having to buy food at the airport that is bad and expensive, and little rest once you get to your Spanish pied-a-terre.
Then, while it may be fun to say your live in Barcelona when you get to the office in the morning, it has to get exhausting very fast. How long can you endure that routine, the airport checks, the train back to the city… ? I know people with long commutes, in Surrey, if you commute from Guildford, you have a 36 minute train ride to Waterloo, and it will cost you around £300 per month, which is crazy high if you ask me. Well, when that train gets to Guildford it is already almost full… with people commuting from Portsmouth and all the towns in the middle. But at least, they just take one train. This guy takes the bus to go to the airport, then the plane, then a train, then a tube, then does it again on the way back. You can’t crack open a book and just wait to get to your destination.
In this example, the worker is commuting four times a week to London. He must have a cool boss who doesn’t mind him working from home once a week. If you crunch the number for a fifth flight per week, staying in London is less expensive.
Another interesting study that I have seen was about people fed up with their commute times. Obviously, this guy doesn’t value his time much, or he’d rather pay the extra £200 he is saving on rent by living in BCN and have five hours of free time EVERY DAY instead of flying back and forth.
Well the people in the other study have taken into consideration their time, but also the money they spend on commuting. Back to Guildford and the £300 monthly train pass, you can rent a 1 bed flat for £900-£1,100 over there. But if you lived in central London and had no train pass, you could spend £1,200-£1,400 on rent, which should get you a similar property. And save you two hours a day.
Even better, if you have a mortgage in the city, that is £300 going to equity building toward your mortgage, instead of the train company. £600 if you are a couple. People often look at the cost of rent/mortgage as the main factor when deciding to relocate somewhere but the cost of transportation and time lost should also be of importance.
Back to Barcelona, in my humble opinion, it would be worth it if the guy was not obliged to commute four days a week. Say once a week to attend meetings and meet clients, in a world with Skype, Hangouts and so on, it shouldn’t be so hard to convince your company to accept. Or, since the main thing seems to be spending weekends in Barcelona, live close to work in cramped quarters Monday/Thursday and fly on Thursday to your cool Spanish place, work from the sunny balcony on Friday and fly back Monday morning.