Maximum seating, a simple concept and a premiere.
Traveling by train is becoming fashionable (again). What could be more appropriate than the striking green design of the only rail competitor in long-distance transport? FlixTrain advertises itself as “groundbreakingly cheap” on its own website. Time to take a closer look at the green wagons.
The route network
In the overpowering system of the railway company, which has had the German railway network completely under its control for decades, there is still hardly any movement. While there are now a large number of small(er) and medium-sized railway companies throughout Germany thanks to regional tenders in local transport, the situation is completely different in long-distance transport. FlixTrain currently only offers a handful of routes within Germany, for example the connections from Leipzig to Hamburg, Cologne to Berlin or Stuttgart - Berlin.
With Munich-Cologne, another route will soon be available again, after FlixTrain announced just a few days ago to noticeably expand the offer again. The concept is, similar to the FlixBus, plain and simple - striking (due to the light green color scheme) and despite the "mass transport" still somehow likeable. Incidentally, the audience on the test drive was a diverse mix, young and old meet in the FlixTrain.
The (renovated) wagons
The gray wagons with the green headrests look chic. What catches the eye is the number of rows of seats, which reminds me of the maximum seating of the LCC in air traffic. According to its own statement, FlixTrain guarantees a seat and therefore (proactively) does not sell standing room. The distance between the seats is relatively narrow but passable due to the high seating, similar to low-cost seating in a plane. The backrest of the seat is really almost vertical and cannot be changed in its setting, the complete lack of seat pockets avoids unnecessary waste. In the lower area there is a bottle holder and a folding table with a cup holder. In the middle below the two seats there is a socket and directly above it there are 2 USB ports.
The wagons were used during the temporary cessation of FlixTrain traffic in the midst of the pandemic to bring them into shape, which actually worked visually. What was striking was that the wagons did not appear to have any ventilation or anything similar, as the air was felt to be very stuffy throughout the journey. In addition, there would be a note on all windows that they can be opened a maximum of 5 cm downwards, which is why I don't really want to know how this affects IM Zug in summer when it's 30 degrees. I also felt that the (extremely) bright lighting, even in the evening, took some getting used to. In addition to the regular lighting on the ceiling, the handrail of the upper luggage rack is also equipped with LEDs, which means that the entire train was brightly lit inside, even at 21 p.m. It is of course difficult to say whether this is the case on all journeys.
FlixTrain starts on all routes at a price of €9,99, although tickets are occasionally available from €4,99. Since the boarding price of the train in long-distance traffic, without the BahnCard, is about twice as much, an absolute bargain, whereby the rule is - the earlier you book, the cheaper.
Tickets on the Stuttgart – Berlin route, for a single journey, are also available from €9,99, shortly before departure the ticket costs just under €65, which is still significantly lower than the price of a Flexi train ticket. The travel price includes hand luggage and, according to the website, a suitcase weighing a maximum of 20 kilos, which has apparently been copied from aviation. However, it is unclear to me how the weight in the train should be checked. Each additional suitcase can be booked in advance from €4. In general, in the area of additional sales, FlixTrain offers the option of reserving a seat from €3,99 in addition to the seat assigned free of charge when booking. A free adjacent seat can also be added (depending on the distance) from €4 upwards. By the way, I paid 2€ for my ticket 24,99 days before departure, a great price.
Wifi / entertainment / gastronomy
Similar to the FlixBus fleet, FlixTrain offers an in-house entertainment program, which can be easily streamed on your own device after dialing into the WLAN. The selection includes a selection of 22 films, 8 audio books and numerous games. Unlike the Wifi, the use of your own Flixtainment is not linked to a throttling of the data and can therefore be enjoyed to the full from start to finish. While the entertainment worked flawlessly on the test drive, the WLAN occasionally faltered and was briefly disconnected several times. There is still room for improvement here.
Another point of criticism is the possibility of on-board catering, which according to the homepage is still suspended, so there was no possibility to buy anything on the train on the test drive, so this should be done on your own in advance.
And finally ...
FlixTrain offers particularly price-sensitive passengers a good price-performance ratio with enormous growth potential. With entry tickets for €9,99 and promotions from €4,99, the prices for long-distance transport are unbeatably low. FlixTrain does not run daily on some routes, for example the route from Stuttgart to Berlin used in the test is not used on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Also, the frequencies of 1-2 times a day are not necessarily appealing for business appointments, since the frequency is not necessarily at the end of the day, so the offer is currently most suitable for private trips/journeys where the passenger is rather after/on the departure of the FlixTrain.
What was noticeable at the train stations was always a certain hectic pace on the part of the train conductors in order to ensure the stops at the station and punctuality, which resulted in (for me) an absolute premiere. When the FlixTrain FLX10 came to a standstill at 21:01 p.m. at Berlin Central Station, we had reached our destination almost 15 minutes EARLIER, really impressive.
The (main) problem with FlixTrain should still be the lack of awareness of its own brand across the board. The concept of relying almost exclusively on subcontractors is ultimately associated with a certain risk in many respects. The only thing that can be said about the wagons is that they are impeccable.
In my opinion, it would generally be desirable for FlixTrain to shake up the long-distance rail transport market after the long-distance bus and push prices down a bit due to the competition. With the DB Group, however, unlike in the long-distance bus business at the time, there is an almost overwhelming, state-owned competitor on the other side, which will make it anything but easy for FlixTrain.