Deutsche Bahn joins Star Alliance to become first non-airline member

Jul 4, 2022

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Star Alliance became the first international airline alliance a full 25 years ago, celebrating its birthday just last month. Until now, none of the major alliances (the other two being SkyTeam and Oneworld) have had a non-airline alliance.

That’s changed.

Deutsche Bahn (the German railroad company, often referred to as ‘DB’) is officially joining Star Alliance as the first non-airline partner of any of the major alliances.

DB’s membership in Star Alliance will become effective Aug. 1, 2022, and is part of a push for intermodal travel. This new model seeks to link air travel with train, bus, ferry and other modes of travel in the future.

Of course, the goal is to also make the travel experience seamless, including across members’ loyalty accounts.

“Today brings great forces together and opens the Star Alliance doors beyond the airline ecosystem,” said Jeffrey Goh, CEO of Star Alliance.

“Our new model for intermodal partnerships promises seamless coexistence between different modes of transport throughout the alliance. We welcome Deutsche Bahn as our first intermodal partner to Star Alliance.”

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This isn’t the first time a Star Alliance member partnered with a train line.

Lufthansa Express Rail began more than 20 years ago and provides a combined train-plus-flight booking experience.

It also includes something novel: If your train arrives late at the airport, causing you to miss your connection, you will be automatically rebooked onto a later flight.

When booking separate tickets, this would not be covered. This combined flight and train ticket comes as one itinerary, meaning it can be purchased in one checkout and with one reservation number.

Harry Hohmeister, member of the board at Deutsche Lufthansa AG, said DB joining Star Alliance is the next logical step after this successful partnership.

Frankfurt (FRA) airport in Germany.
Frankfurt Airport (FRA) in Germany. (Photo by Alex Kraus/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

With Deutsche Bahn joining Star Alliance, the goal is to extend this unified booking process to other airlines in Star Alliance.

This unified booking process would let customers purchase a single, combined ticket for flights and train journeys with seat reservations, seamless check-in and baggage handling process, as well as connection to Intercity Express (ICE) trains.

Additionally, passengers in business and first class on Star Alliance member airlines will have access to DB lounges when traveling on combined itineraries.

Related: 7 great airline mileage programs for booking Star Alliance awards

What does this mean for frequent flyers and their loyalty accounts?

If you purchase a combined flight-plus-train reservation, you’ll be able to collect points or miles in your preferred loyalty account on the train portion of your ticket, once DB becomes an active member of Star Alliance.

How this will work is not exactly clear, as the member airlines will need to establish earning rates.

Once DB is officially a Star Alliance member next month, bookings should go live for these new intermodal travel packages.

As of today, the Star Alliance search engine and member airlines do not recognize German train stations as a destination. When this feature is live, you can count on TPG to provide updates on how it works.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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