Fares not fair, say Danish bus passengers

By Lucy Arup and Peter Buchholtz

The German bus operator Flixbus expands its empire to Denmark, putting pressure on the competition. Meanwhile Danish passengers express their frustration at the rise of national bus ticket prices.

On an overcast Tuesday morning at Copenhagen Central Station Simon Polaco, 24, waits for the Flixbus that will take him from the Danish capital to his friends in Aarhus. Until recently Simon may have boarded a Rute1000 bus or maybe Rødbillet, but since Flixbus set up shop in Denmark in March 2017, Polaco’s options have narrowed.

The German bus company Flixbus started it’s Nordic endeavour this spring, which saw partnerships with existing domestic bus companies Abildskou, Rute1000 and Rødbillet. These partnerships allow Flixbus to manage the marketing and ticket pricing, while the original companies remain in control of drivers and buses.

“A very convenient mobility option”

Peter Ahlgren, the Nordic Managing Director of Flixbus, says, “We have optimised the roadmaps for our partners and integrated this into our existing Flixbus network. New connections are already under development. Danish travellers will enjoy easy access to a reliable and very convenient mobility option.”

The far-reaching Flixbus has effectively created a faster, more active and wider bus network, the likes of which Denmark has never seen. But the transition has taken a lot of heat, with some saying Flixbus is creating a monopoly on the Danish bus market by neutralising the competition, leaving them free to set the price, thus removing consumer choice.

Simon Polaco and his fellow travellers at Copenhagen Central Station are some of those suffering the consequences. “The best word for it is shady,” says Polaco. “They have been trying to buy out the competition, so they have kind of become the only company doing bus transportation. There used to be four different ones, now maybe we have one or two.”

Travellers being disappointed

Nursing student Line Bilgrau Nisgaard, 23, agrees. “Before there were a lot of companies to choose between, it was a good alternative from the trains, as the trains are really pricey. But now there is only Flixbus, which is disappointing, because you need the competitive prices.”

The German company was founded 2011 in Munich under the name GoBus.

Ever since the neon green bus giant made its way to Denmark, there has been an increase in ticket prices. Nanna Hansen, 23, who is studying to be a nurse says, “Before, I usually travelled with Rute1000, and it cost me around 100 Kroner return. Now I have to pay 210 Kroner to go back and forth, so I don’t visit Copenhagen that much…that sucks.”

Flixbus introduced a “dynamic price system”

Rosa Donat, Manager of Corporate Communications for Flixbus, admits there has been a price increase since the partnership between Rødbillet and Abildskou, saying:

“At the beginning we were really overrun by a huge demand, this is why we slightly increased the prices by 10 per cent.” Donat explains the increase was temporary and that Flixbus have since introduced a new way of pricing. “It’s a dynamic price system”, says Donat, “depending on how full the bus is and when the ticket is booked, the price will correspond respectively. In the long term, we believe that this is a sustainable price system.” Students also receive a 25% discount when travelling with Flixbus.

Contrary to the criticism that Flixbus has received for their crafty takeover strategy of the inland Danish buses, Rosa Donat says Flixbus welcomes competitor diversity, in regards to the new bus company Sortbillet, who have marketed themselves as the 100%-Danish bus operator. “We consider competition to be healthy. We have almost always been the underdog since we started, and, so far, we have shown that we can also work with competition.”

Photo credits: Lucy Arup, Peter Buchholtz