This morning I was meant to take Flixbus 1324 from Amsterdam Sloterdijk to Berlin ZOB, booked because Deutsche Bahn train drivers are striking today. Needs must and all that. The timetable for the service is departing Sloterdijk at 06:10 and arriving ZOB at 16:20, before the bus continues onwards to Warszawa.

At 01:24 (when I was asleep) I received an email from Flix stating my departure was “stark verspätet” (heavily delayed), and a further email at 05:26 (so 44 minutes before scheduled departure) stating a delay of 120 minutes – shown here.

OK, I thought, I’ll doze an hour more, and get to Sloterdijk an hour before the delayed departure – at about 07:10. Only then at 06:30 I checked the live tracking for the service… and discovered the bus had departed at 06:24 – without me on it.

Now I understand that those live tracking details are always non-binding – it is my fault if I miss the bus – but I simply do not know what I am supposed to do with information at 05:26 stating my bus will depart at 08:10. Is it supposed to mean “go to Sloterdijk and just be ready to wait in the cold for two hours?”

As if that were not annoying enough, the bus then spend some absurd amount of time in Utrecht – and departed from there more or less at the time it’d have done, had it left Sloterdijk with a delay of two hours (see screenshot). But that was not communicated by email at all. “The bus is being held in Utrecht, board it there!” would have been useful information, but that was not said.

So it was back to the train – I had a train ticket anyway – and try my luck despite the strike. And I got lucky – Amsterdam – Utrecht – Hengelo – Bielefeld… and there was a delayed ICE to Berlin, and I hopped on it.

When I hit publish on this I will be in Spandau, while the Flixbus will not have even got to Hannover. Or maybe it has? Because how am I supposed to know if I can trust the live running information?

[UPDATE 13.3.2024, 09:00]
So – after all this mess – what are my rights to claim compensation? Live running data is for information purposes only – which is part of the problem I explain above.

First of all I contacted Flixbus’s service team, using their online form, and explained the mess the company had caused. This was the response – my emphasis: “Es tut uns leid, dass Sie nicht mit uns reisen konnten. Ihre Fahrt erfolgte mit der FlixBus Polska sp. z o.o. , die die Rückgabe eines ungenutzten Tickets aufgrund des Verschuldens des Fahrgastes nicht zulässt.” “We are sorry that you were unable to travel with us. Your journey was with FlixBus Polska sp. z o.o. which does not allow the return of an unused ticket due to the fault of the passenger.” It is my fault for having trusted their live information.

But then Martin Hoffmann gave me an idea in this toot. EU Regulation 181/2011 states “Where a carrier reasonably expects a regular service to be cancelled or delayed in departure from a terminal for more than 120 minutes” a passenger has a right to a refund. And then, going back over all the emails from Flixbus, I found this one sent at 01:24 on the morning of departure:

What happens if – even after the trip – I click on “Erhalte eine vollständige Geldrückerstattung oder einen Gutschein im Wert Deines Ticketpreises” “Receive a full refund or a voucher to the value of your ticket price”?

The answer – it turns out – is a complete refund of the whole cost of the ticket, paid back to my bank account within 24 hours.

So I conclude that if you receive the email like the one above, Flix is sending these to comply with 181/2011. Even if the delay subsequently is reduced, passengers still have rights to compensation. That, out of this messy story, is a reasonable and useful conclusion.

One Comment

  1. I had a similar experience in Jena a few years back, when the Flixbus phoned me (this was before in-app notifications, I suppose) to say my bus to Dresden was regrettably delayed by about 2 hours. I decided to extend my dinner, aiming to be at the bus station an hour before the new departure, when the bus driver called me and asked where I was. They were kind enough to wait as I hurried over. It seems they still have trouble locating their buses. (And also knowing what kind of services they can sell on each route – last year I had booked a Flixbus with bike transport from Kolobrzeg to Berlin, but when it showed up there were no bike racks and the driver refused to take us along).

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