The new rail reservation rule becomes a laughing stock in practice
Stand: 2:36 p.m. | Reading time: 4 minutes
Absurd: The railway limits the number of reservations on its trains, but there is no reservation requirement. And other mistakes happen during implementation: strangers can still accidentally reserve seats next to each other.
PJust in time for the Christmas rush, the railway should actually ensure more distance in its long-distance trains. The Prime Ministers of the federal states and the federal government agreed on Wednesday, however, only on a minimal consensus, according to which the number of reservations on the trains should be “limited”.
A reservation requirement is not introduced. Deutsche Bahn (DB) and Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) have wanted to prevent this since the beginning of the pandemic, so as not to alienate regular customers with season tickets like the Bahncard 100, who should be able to easily board every train in the future.
So this week a regulation was already absurd in itself: From Friday the reservation system of the railway should be changed so that usually only the window seats should be bookable. In the future, only two passengers should sit diagonally across from each other at tables and only two out of six seats can be reserved in compartments. Overall, the number of bookable spaces should drop to just 60 percent. However, the lack of obligation to make a reservation means that all seats could still be occupied on public holidays if passengers without a reservation but with a valid ticket get on and occupy the free aisle seats.
Bahn actively offers aisle seats
But on Friday it became apparent that the implementation of the railway was even more absurd than the basic idea already suggests. If you want to reserve a seat in the new system as a single traveler, you will not only be offered window seats. Anyone who wanted to reserve a window seat a few hours before the departure of the ICE 1009 from Berlin to Munich was told that the train could unfortunately only offer an alternative seat – in the aisle.
If you open the seat selection, you will notice not only some free window seats but also a surprising number of reservable aisle seats in different carriages of the train. But even those who book a window seat like seat 65 in car 22 can experience a surprise later on on the train.
At the time of booking, seats 65 and 67, which are directly next to each other, are both still vacant. If you book the space at the window, the aisle seat next to it should actually no longer be bookable, after all, the distance should be increased.
However, a test after the first booking has been completed shows that every new customer can still reserve seat 67 directly next to it – only seat number 65 now appears to be no longer bookable – it has actually already been sold.
There is also the problem in the app
It is noticeable that in the rows in front of and behind both seats in the aisle as well as at the window can be booked that are right next to each other. A look at the Navigator app from Deutsche Bahn shows that the phenomenon does not only occur when a booking is made on the desktop. The new rule does not provide more distance on the smartphone either.
Further tests on trains on other days and at other times show that not only the ICE 1009 is affected on Friday. On the coming Sunday you can still buy aisle seats on the train from Munich to Berlin.
So has Deutsche Bahn not yet implemented the announced change? Is there just a delay?
A spokesman has a different explanation: In fact, all of this is correct. Because the railway had announced that there should also be areas in the trains in which families and people from the same household can reserve seats next to each other. The only problem is: These areas are not identified in any of the Group’s booking systems or are recognizable as such.
Accidentally alone on the family site
For example, single travelers may unsuspectingly book seats that are right next to a seat that another passenger has already reserved. Surprisingly, nothing comes of the hoped-for distance on the train.
In addition, individual travelers, without wanting to, occupy places that are actually intended for families. And families who want to sit together can only discover the right seats by chance in the booking system. You cannot search specifically for it. There is also no rule that the family seats are always in a certain car, at the beginning or in the middle of an open-plan compartment, says the spokesman.
Deutsche Bahn also realizes that this can be problematic. The spokesman says that the notice will be included that the family seats are not recognizable. Fortunately, there are still a few weeks until Christmas to fix the problem.