Germany’s Deutsche Bahn railway joins Star Alliance

Travellers will soon be able to earn frequent flyer points and enjoy status perks as they ride the rails across Europe.

By David Flynn, July 5 2022
Germany’s Deutsche Bahn railway joins Star Alliance

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn will become the newest member of the Star Alliance airline family as the group looks beyond the skies for green-tinged growth.

Under a new ‘intermodal’ system, airlines across the Star Alliance network will be able to include Deutsche Bahn rail services as part of passenger bookings – with DB’s intercity ICE trains even sporting a flight number – allowing travellers to more easily connect between services.

DB is the first partner in the Star Alliance initiative, which the group promises “intelligently combines airline with railway, bus, ferry or any other transport ecosystems, alliance-wide.”

Deutsche Bahn will formally join Star Alliance on August 1, after which travellers booking combined rail and air tickets can collect frequent flyer points on linked loyalty programs of Star Alliance airlines – an extensive roster which on the local front includes Air New Zealand alongside Virgin Australia partners Singapore Airlines and United Airlines.

Passengers booked in business and first class of their respective Star Alliance airline will also gain access to Deutsche Bahn railway lounges.

Travellers arriving at or departing from Frankfurt Airport station will also receive priority baggage handling to transfer their luggage between the train and their flight or vice versa.

“Today brings great forces together and opens the Star Alliance doors beyond the airline ecosystem,” remarked Star Alliance CEO, Jeffrey Goh.

“Our new model for intermodal partnerships promises seamless coexistence between different modes of transport throughout the alliance.”

Under the Star Alliance cooperation, airline passengers receive one ticket with confirmed seats on linked air and rail services and receive boarding passes for both at the start of their journey.

The program builds on a similar and long-established joint venture between Lufthansa and Deutsche Bahn, with Star Alliance now looking to expand its intermodal network to include more non-airline partners around the world.

A greener alternative

Rail has long been an alternative to flying for many business travellers, especially on Europe’s fast rail services, and recent years have seen a continued shift towards rail driven by environmental considerations.

Star Alliance member Swiss already has a ‘Swiss Air Rail’ partnership with SBB Swiss Federal Railways linking Zurich Airport with stations at Basel, Lugano and Geneva, with Munich to follow this month.

Under the Swiss/SBB partnership, the rail ticket can be included in the Swiss air fare, with travellers earning Miles & More points as they ride the rails, plus railway lounge access for first and business class flyers along with top-tier elite status holders.

Across Europe, fast and efficient rail travel has long been an accepted alternative to flying, and Germany in particular boasts an extensive rail network.

France now bans air travel on routes where there’s a train or bus alternative of less than 2.5 hours, such as from Paris to Bordeaux, Nantes and Lyon

Europe’s high-speed rail operators continue to claw away at a large slice of the business travel market, with the ‘Green Speed’ merger between Eurostar and Franco-Belgian rival Thalys increasing their network’s reach and non-stop appeal.

Meanwhile, French startup Midnight Trains aims to reinvent overnight sleeper trains as a ‘luxury hotel on rails’ experience featuring private suites with their own bathrooms, and a seasonal menu with cocktails available à la carte or as room service.

The network of luxe sleeper trains would radiate from Paris to the UK, Spain, Italy, Germany and Denmark from 2024.

Additional reporting by Matt Lennon

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 798

Best way to get around Central Europe is by train, image Australia linking Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1108

It's a meaningless comparison.  The combined population of central and western Europe is nearly 400 million people.  The population of the areas you list is about 18 million.  Despite our global image, we are one of the most urbanised countries in the world.  The business case for large scale medium to long distance rail is years away from making any sense, if ever.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 691

Anyone remember when Qantas had a similar agreement with DeutscheBahn (DB) in the early 2000's ? If travelling for example from Sydney to Berlin, via Frankfurt on QF, a single ticket could be issued with the QF flight sectors and the DB Frankfurt-Berlin ICE train sector. The train sector(s) even accrued QF Frequent Flyer points.

This was especially useful given that FRA (Frankfurt airport) has a fully functional Bahnhoff (train station) in its below-ground substructure. I'm surprised that QF hasn't bothered to suggest the resurrection of such an Alliance option to oneworld. There are certainly a number of global cities that could provide this service to airports - LHR, LGW, FRA, SYD immediately come to mind .. 

Whilst the USA isn't efficiently served by rail networks that access airports, many US airports have regionally or community-owned transportation links which serve city to airport connections. Think the metro systems in DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth TX) and LAX for example. 

03 Jun 2019

Total posts 11

Virtual codesharing (putting a flight number on a train service) has its limitations. Difference in Inventory Control System, booking and refund policy, billing and settlement plans .etc make the process complicated. In some case, the train company has to reserve a fixed number of seats on each service purely for airline passengers. New distribution capability could be a possible solution to these limitations.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 691

Sure .. but the point about 'reserving a fixed number of train seats' that you make is basically no different to the manner in which many airline interline contracts work. Qantas, like most airlines has had a number of 'block book' interline agreements with other carriers. 

These carriers are often carriers that might be outside a particular or competing alliance (think Alitalia and Qantas, for instance where Alitalia was SkyTeam and Qantas oneworld) or where a small carrier may not be in any alliance such as El Al and Qantas. 

These 'block book' arrangements also exist on multiple levels such as a 'permanent' block, where a certain number of seats are reserved / sold and paid for each month irrespective of demand / use OR on an 'ad hoc' agreement buying based on demand and not subject to a strict, recurring number.

Billing and Settlement Plans should not be a problem. Airlines participate in an old system called BSP - Bank Settlement Plan, which each IATA airline subscribed to. Airline tickets / coupons were processed through BSP and each airline received their remuneration for their particular sector(s) on any given ticket. In the instance of a non-airline member sector being ticketed on the same ticket (as all air sectors), a separate code is generated for DB. It would be paid in the same method as airline members. No reason why this should complicate matters.

Where you will get minor complications is in service delivery, refund policies and possible booking structures - but those occur exclusively between airlines too. 

03 Jun 2019

Total posts 11

Good point made. However, block space booking in the airline industry is very rare these days. Most of the codesharing agreement signed today are based on free sale mode, meaning the marketing airline has seamless and real-time access to the operating airline's inventory, which is also preferred by airlines as it significantly reduces the work load of an inventory control agent.

As for Billing and Settlement, it is complicated because a train company is not an IATA member, thus unable to use IATA's ICH, unless otherwise approved. The case gets even more complicated when it comes to interlining, in case the validating carrier doeen't have such agreement with the train company, the train segment simply cannot be booked/ticketed. 

For the last part, most airlines allow their ticket to be booked for up to 1 year in advance, but for train company that is usually months before departure. I'm not familiar with DB but I guess this might be a reason why Qantas only sells DB codeshares for such a short time.

Very smart move, let's see more of this in Europe and also Japan. Woudln't it be great to fly ANA to Tokyo for example and then have an onwards connection to a bullet train, on the same inventory and earn miles and maybe also enjoy some perks like free seat selection if you have high status!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 May 2018

Total posts 54

It's really the  the best way to travel around Europe.. in particularly Germany, although their hi-speed trains do venture to Brussels etc. They have extensively trained their train staff over the years (all now speak very good english..so if your German isn't up to scratch don't panic). Their seat numbering in carriages can be frustrating - the numbers tend to jump about a bit.

If you do get to go on one of the last generation trains.. like the one in the pici above.. try and get a seat in the  carriage behind the driver.. it's an interesting experience looking forward when the train is doing 300kph.. provided the driver doesn't blook the screen.

04 Dec 2013

Total posts 150

I'm picturing the poor conductor being called in to resolve an outright fight between a Lufthansa Senator and a Bahn Comfort status holder over who should be entitled to the last remaining Bahn.Comfort seat on a packed Friday evening ICE...


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