Star Alliance and Deutsche Bahn have announced that from August 1, 2022, Deutsche Bahn will join Star Alliance as its first-ever non-airline member. The move is designed to enable seamless rail and air travel integration in Germany between Star Alliance airline members and Deutsche Bahn.

According to the CEO of Star Alliance, Jeffrey Goh:

“Today brings great forces together and opens the Star Alliance doors beyond the airline ecosystem. Our new model for intermodal partnerships promises seamless coexistence between different modes of transport throughout the alliance. We welcome Deutsche Bahn as our first intermodal partner to Star Alliance.”

Deutsche Bahn trains in Dortmund Hbf

Why is a train company being added to an airline alliance!?

While a rail company joining an airline alliance is ground-breaking, it is not the first time an airline and train company has teamed up. DB joining Star Alliance builds on its existing partnership with Lufthansa. For some time now, passengers can buy combined rail and air tickets via the Lufthansa Express Rail program.

The view is to extend this to all other alliance airlines which operate flights to the German market. This will enable passengers to book travel on a single itinerary seamlessly. Commenting on this new level of integration, the DB board member Michael Peterson points out the main benefits:

“From Freiburg to Singapore: you only need one ticket for that. With attractive inner-German connections and simultaneous links to international travel chains, Deutsche Bahn and Star Alliance make a significant contribution to reducing CO2 emissions in the transport sector…

This is how we get more people off the plane and onto the environmentally friendly rail. In close cooperation with the airlines, we are now tackling the mobility turnaround. We are further networking our offers in such a way that we can optimally use the respective strengths of our modes of transport.”

How Deutsche Bahn will work within Star Alliance

 With Deutsche Bahn joining Star Alliance, travelers should be able to benefit from the following:

  • Seamlessly book one itinerary, including rail and airline travel.
  • Priority baggage handling and other services at Frankfurt Airport.
  • Earn miles in your preferred airline program for the train portion of your journey.
  • Deutsche Bahn lounge access for Business and first-class customers.

This tie-up can have some excellent benefits for passengers and put the onus of getting you to your destination on the airline/train operator. For instance, if your flight arrives late and you miss your train, you should be automatically booked on the next available train and vice versa.

Commenting about the partnership Deutsche Lufthansa AG board member Harry Hohmeister stated:

“Our partnership is unique worldwide. Once again, we are pioneers in Germany for intelligently linking different types of transport. We are creating added value for customers, for Germany as a business location, for the environment and for society. Mobility of the future means mastering challenges together. The successful Lufthansa Express Rail cooperation is an outstanding example of this – and on this foundation, we are now taking the next logical step. Our customers will benefit from this partnership more than ever before.”

Other Rail-Airline Alliances

Some travelers may find it shocking that a train company would partner with an airline alliance. However, these types of relationships are actually relatively commonplace in Europe.

In Austria, OBB (The Austrian Rail company) has a partnership with Austrian Airlines. In France, the French rail company SNCF has a similar relationship with Air France and Charles De Gaulle airport. Meanwhile, in Amsterdam, Thalys has a strong relationship with KLM.

Final Thoughts

While this is excellent exciting news, there are still lots of questions that should be fleshed out over the coming weeks and months. These fall into two main categories:

  • Earnings: Airlines will likely need to publish earnings rates on Deutsch Bahn. And there are questions about how the Bahn Bonus (the rail loyalty program) will fit into this new partnership.
  • Elite status: How will elite status holders be treated, and what perks will they enjoy?

While there are many questions, this development will surely increase the usefulness of your points/miles and make travel to Germany more seamless. And Star Alliance members should be able to leverage elite status to get perks and benefits on more types of transportation.

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