Europe’s leading long-haul coach operator Flixbus is poised to introduce airline-style seat and luggage reservation charges on all scheduled routes.
The Berlin-based company says the move will boost ridership and increase passengers’ comfort. ‘We aim to give customers exactly what they want,’ says chief executive officer André Schwämmlein. ‘A pleasant side-effect is that it also generates more revenue.’
Flixbus has previously not allocated specific seats. Passengers can sit in any seat that is free, although on busy routes the choice is often restricted for those who get on later.
Seat reservations will not be obligatory and Flixbus says it would charge ‘only a few Euros’ per ticket for the service. ‘We want to make reservations possible but not compulsory,’ says Schwämmlein. ‘Some customers want flexibility, others want to take more bags with them and there are those who want to reserve a seat.’
‘On a double-deck coach a lot of people want to sit right at the front but there are only four seats. These could go to people who have paid for them and not to those who got themselves on board first,’ he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily.
Flixbus travellers are currently allowed hand luggage and two items each of hold luggage. In future each additional suitcase or bag can be booked in advance and will cost €5 (£4.40) per item if there is space in the coach.
An introduction date for seat reservations and extra luggage rates has not yet been announced but industry experts expect the new service to start by early 2018. Flixbus also announced unspecified new measures to improve customer service information on delays.
Reserving a train seat on services operated by state-owned Deutsche Bahn costs from €4.50 (£3.95) per journey although this is included in the price of some bargain tickets.
Flixbus holds a 92% share of the longdistance coach market in Germany, but Schwämmlein says it does not have a monopoly. ‘That would mean we have no competition in Germany. In fact, customers switch from bus to car and to rail or to air travel depending on the price.’