Corona crisis: dispute over additional seats for federal employees

To protect against the Coronavirus ministries and federal authorities should be able to book two places for their employees for business trips – so that the next place remains free. The catch: According to the Bahn, this is not possible. According to the conditions of carriage, the right to a seat expires 15 minutes after departure if the seat is not occupied. This specifically applies not only to reservations, but also to the purchase of a second ticket.

According to a letter from the Federal Ministry of the Interior dated November 12, which SPIEGEL has received, employees of the ministries and other federal authorities should only take business trips that are absolutely necessary. In order to maintain a greater distance from fellow travelers, an additional seat next to the car can be booked both on the plane and when traveling by train. The costs will be reimbursed by the respective employer, the rule should initially apply until March 31. The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on the letter first.

The Federal Ministry of the Interior defended the new business travel rules against criticism. These “correspond to the goal of the federal government to reduce the number of contacts as much as possible and to implement the generally applicable distance rules of 1.50 meters – as far as possible,” said a spokesman.

Chafing against double booking

The fact that the interior department wants to make it possible to book another space does not really fit with repeated statements by the Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU), according to which trains are not corona hotspots. Scheuer also rejects a reservation requirement for travelers, which prevents overcrowded trains in other countries.

His ministry made it clear on Tuesday that it is not planning any double bookings for its employees: they do not intend to use this “can rule”. Corresponding inquiries from employees have so far been rejected, “since traveling by public transport does not pose an increased risk of infection,” it said. However, these only existed in isolated cases.

Mouth and nose protection is mandatory on the train. Overall, the trains are much less busy than usual. Nevertheless, there is always criticism that passengers are traveling without a mask and that trains are sometimes quite full.

The railway announced on Tuesday that safe travel was guaranteed, because the long-distance trains are currently only around 20 to 25 percent full. “That means: four out of five seats are unoccupied.” Window seats are preset for reservations so that the aisle seat remains free. In addition, the train staff pay attention to an even distribution of passengers on the train.

In its letter, the federal government is most likely to recommend the car to employees: the use of a rental car can be recognized because the risk of infection is lower due to the lack of passengers, the letter says.

Business trips by federal officials should be avoided because of the corona pandemic. According to information from the dpa news agency, the number of business trips is currently around 70 percent below the level of last year.

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