Deutsche Bahn joins forces with Star Alliance as first intermodal partner

An Inter City Express train with a Star Alliance special livery. Photo: © Jakob Wert / IFN

German railway operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) is officially becoming a partner of Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline alliance.

This was announced at Frankfurt Airport’s long distance train station on 4th July, featuring an Inter City Express (ICE) train, wearing a Star Alliance design. The new partnership will come into effect on 1st August 2022. It enables passengers to book seamless connections between rail and flight on a single ticket. Not only does this allow airlines to offer more destinations in Germany via the network of DB, it also gives travellers a protected connection. If a flight is missed because of a train delay, passengers would be rebooked on another one.

A system like this already exists with Lufthansa Express Rail, a 20 year-old partnership between Lufthansa and DB in Frankfurt. “Frankfurt is a hotspot for both long-distance trains, as well as intercontinental flights. And this [partnership] is mostly about intercontinental connections.“, says Harry Hohmeister, Member of the Board at Lufthansa. The new Star Alliance cooperation builds on the present collaboration between the member airline and railway operator, and enables DB to offer its railway connections from Frankfurt to other carriers, such as Singapore Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines or Air India. Munich Airport, the second largest alliance hub in Germany, is not currently connected to the long-distance railway system, making Frankfurt Airport the main hub for intermodal transfers.

ICE train of Deutsche Bahn at Frankfurt Airport. Photo: © Jakob Wert / IFN

Star Alliance is the first major airline alliance to launch a partnership with a railway operator. The 25 year-old alliance says it is open to integrate even more intermodal ways of transportation, for example bus or ferry, in the future. “Today brings great forces together and opens the Star Alliance doors beyond the airline ecosystem.“, comments Jeffrey Goh, CEO of Star Alliance.

But unlike full alliance members, DB does not give the option to collect airline miles on standalone train bookings – only if connected to a flight. It also does not integrate an airline or alliance status, meaning passengers with a frequent flyer status will not be able to access DB lounges at train stations in Germany, unless they are travelling in business class. When asked, Michael Peterson, DB Board Member for long-distance transport, says: “No, we are not combining the loyality programs. Every partner sticks to their own program. But if you book an intermodal journey [train and flight], you are able to receive, for example, Lufthansa miles for the whole journey.