Last weekend, I took advantage of FlixTrain for the first time together with a companion which booking process is a little different in comparison to bookings of Deutsche Bahn tickets.
For those who don’t know: FlixMobility GmbH first introduced FlixBus with a large fleet of long-distance buses operating on plenty of national and international routes. Eversince March 2018, they have launched their first railway services under the “FlixTrain” brand.
Ordering tickets on the FlixBus/FlixTrain website is rather painful for screenreader users but tickets can also be booked in the app or by contacting the customer support. It is also possible for handicapped travelers to bring a companion if they have the documents necessary, such as a disability proof. Especially in that case, FlixTrain advises to get in touch with their customer service directly.
It’s a matter of fact that buses cannot hold more passengers than available seats; it is therefore required to contact the customer service, give them your booking details (if you have already booked a ticket for yourself in advance) and request an extra ticket for your companion. You shall then receive a second email with a ticket for the companion; it is therefore required to provide them with your companion’s name.
Exactly the same applies to journeys with FlixTrain. Whereas in most of Deutsche Bahn’s trains (for example) you could even – regardless of seat-reservations – spontaneously hopp on the train together with a companion, FlixTrain prefers to know the exact number of travelers including possible companions. It is also advised by FlixTRain to request a companion ticket and possible seat reservations not later than 36 hours ahead of departure. However, just like on a bus ride, an actual seat reservation is not necessary in first place unless you would like to request assistance, but I’ll talk about that later…
We were a little more spontaneous, so I called FlixTrain about a day before our departure. For some reason they couldn’t reserve seats although you could still make reservations on the website; however, about 10 minutes later I received an extra ticket for my companion via email.
Assistance, however, can only be arranged through the mobility service center (MSZ) of Deutsche Bahn, an extra call or form to fill out, in other words. They could only book the assistance in Hamburg Altona but not in Münster because, guess what, I couldn’t provide a seat reservation nor was I familiar with FlixTrain’s coach number system, otherwise I would have just given them a random coach number in order to get past the byrocracy. In this case, it didn’t matter to us because Münster was our final destination and we managed finding the right bus outside the station by asking for directions.
In my opinion, it is a little inconvenient that Deutsche Bahn cannot offer assistance all the way if you cannot provide them with a seat reservation or at least a proper coach number. Whereas, on local trains, information such as “I am located at the front, middle or back of the train” are more than enough, it is assumed that you have a proper seat reservation on long-distance trains or at least sit in a coach with seats for handicapped travelers. Mostly, the MSZ can access the details like coaches and special seat information and they also reserve seats free of charge for you if necessary but as for FlixTrains, they cannot access these details nor can they reserve seats here.
This is something the MSZ and FlixTrain could work on to enhance their services and cooperation; nevertheless, all in all we couldn’t complain as far as our FlixTrain ride itself is concerned.