Deutsche Bahn Joins Star Alliance
Deutsche Bahn, the German national railway company, is set to become the first intermodal partner of Star Alliance. Founded in 1997, the global Star Alliance includes 26 member airlines, who will begin to offer a single booking process with Deutsche Bahn and integrated service. This will make it easy, for example, to plan on landing at a hub airport and catching the train to your final destination. This partnership will benefit the airlines, railroad, and travelers, and we can replicate this model around the world.
This historic step builds on the long-established partnership between Deutsche Bahn and Lufthansa. Lufthansa already offers travelers the ability to book their train trip and flight together, and offers connections to 23 cities in Germany from Frankfurt Airport. These feeder trains are treated like a connecting flight, meaning that in the case of delays, Lufthansa would rebook the passenger on the next available flight or train. This has worked so well for both companies that 25 more airlines have joined in.
Airports do long-haul domestic and international flights well, but often must devote too much capacity to small feeder planes. These connector flights put a burden on the airports and airlines who run them and are frequently cancelled due to bad weather or light passenger loads. In places without a reliable train that connects to the airport, travelers are often forced to drive hundreds of miles instead.
It's an inefficient system that doesn’t make sense for anyone. Replacing feeder flights with trains will open capacity for big planes to make the long flights they do best. Making this switch will help reduce emissions, strengthen local economies, and bring more reliability to transportation networks.
This is why it’s encouraging to see airlines and countries make a commitment to reduce or eliminate short-haul flights. The Alliance advocates for the U.S. to make a similar commitment to good train service at airports.
Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is one of the better examples, as it’s an international hub and the Midwest’s gateway to the world. O’Hare has more international destinations than all other airports in the Midwest combined—but today, getting there usually means a long car drive or an expensive regional flight. We need to work towards a fast, reliable, and stress-free way to get to O’Hare.
Amtrak is taking the first step towards making frequent service to O’Hare from around the Midwest possible. They are seeking a federal grant to upgrade Chicago Union Station and create better routes in and out of it. This could open the door to establishing better crosstown train service and the creation of a new railroad hub at O’Hare.
It’s good to see airlines recognize the efficiency and convenience of replacing short-haul flights and connecting trains to planes. International airports around the world should look for partnerships like this, and governments should do all they can to enable travelers to easily catch trains to and from planes.