Star Alliance recently announced the addition of an intermodal partner, Deutsche Bahn, as the first non-airline member of the world’s largest airline alliance.
This follows Star Alliance’s spring announcement of a Star Alliance credit card for some point in the near future. At the time, the alliance suggested that there were more exciting things to come, and it appears that this is one such development.
Deutsche Bahn Becomes the First Non-Airline Partner
Once the partnership is fully implemented on August 1, 2022, passengers travelling by train on Deutsche Bahn will be able to seamlessly connect to a flight departing on any Star Alliance airline.
Similarly, passengers will be able to complete their intra-Germany journey by train after arriving by plane on any Star Alliance airline.
For example, you’d be able to fly Air Canada into Frankfurt and then continue by train to Berlin on the same ticket, even enjoying premium services along the way if your flight is in business class.
This is the first such intermodal partnership for Star Alliance, part of a larger initiative that aims to combine air service with trains, ferries, buses, and other modes of transport. This model offers passengers seamless travel experiences, as well as alignment of loyalty programs.
Deutsche Bahn has previously partnered with Lufthansa under the Lufthansa Express Rail program, which has existed for decades. Through Lufthansa Express Rail, passengers departing on or arriving with Lufthansa could combine a train ticket, in either direction, with their airfare on a single reservation.
This week’s announcement is essentially the extension of this program to all Star Alliance member airlines.
Once implemented, travellers will be able to book trains sold as flight numbers on their booking platforms for all Star Alliance member airlines. Upon checking in, passengers receive boarding passes for both the train and the flight.
Rather than making separate reservations for air and train travel, both modes of travel will be combined on the same ticket. Seat reservations for the train and plane will be available upon booking, too.
To sweeten the deal, passengers booked on such itineraries will benefit from priority services, such as priority baggage handling, once they arrive at the airport.
Furthermore, passengers travelling in business class and First Class will be afforded additional perks, such as access to rail lounges operated by Deutsche Bahn. It’s unknown if having Star Alliance Gold status will be sufficient to access these lounges, or if entrance will be restricted to passengers in premium cabins only.
Lastly, these intermodal bookings will be eligible for accruing loyalty points in any Star Alliance program, although the earning structure has yet to be announced.
Will There Be More Star Alliance Intermodal Partnerships?
In the recent past, some countries in the European Union have banned short-haul domestic flights in an effort to reduce emissions. What constitutes a short-haul flight varies between countries, but in general, options to fly between cities where sufficient rail service exists will be far fewer going forward than in previous years.
The partnership between Star Alliance and Deutsche Bahn attempts to provide travellers with convenient booking options from door to door, without relying on short-haul flights.
Such a partnership makes sense in areas with a well-developed and efficient network of transportation. Europe is a great example of this, where getting around by train, bus, or ferries is part of everyday life.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar partnerships established in other countries in the near future. Indeed, Star Alliance has announced that it plans to expand these types of partnership going forward.
In Switzerland, the Swiss Air Rail program already permits seamless connections to air or rail. I imagine that extending this to other Star Alliance carriers servicing Switzerland is a very reasonable next step.
As a train travel enthusiast, I’m excited about the idea of having a train booking on the same reservation as my air ticket. In some cases, it may even be faster to connect to another city via train than by plane, when connection times are considered.
Missing from the announcement were details about possibly earning loyalty program points on bookings solely with Deutsche Bahn. One potential draw of booking individual train tickets with Deutsche Bahn as an intermodal partner would be the ability to earn airline loyalty points.
I’m also curious if intermodal bookings will be loaded into loyalty program redemptions, and if so, what the corresponding cost would be. Connecting from a business class flight to a premium cabin on a train sounds quite ideal to me, especially with lounge access included.
Star Alliance recently announced that Deutsche Bahn will be the first non-airline partner within the alliance as of August 1, 2022.
This is the first step of the alliance’s initiative to add partnerships beyond airlines, with more planned for the future, especially as countries move to curb emissions created by short-haul air travel that could be otherwise fulfilled by ground transportation.
I’m looking forward to seeing what further developments Star Alliance and their intermodal partners have in store, and taking some integrated air and rail trips of my own in the future.