Taking the train from the city of Mönchengladbach to Berlin costs around €100, whereas bus company Flixbus charges its passengers a mere €19 for the same journey – sounds like a pretty good deal, right? Not always.
Passengers travelling to Berlin from Mönchengladbach in North-Rhine Westphalia on Sunday were in for a shock when the driver announced halfway through the 600-kilometre trip that the bus needed to turn round.
What should have been an eight-hour journey turned into a 14-hour odyssey in which the 40 passengers were treated to, or rather subjected to, a tour of the state of North-Rhine Westphalia.
The problem was not technical, but a logistical error – the driver had brought the wrong vehicle.
The double decker that he had taken was needed for a later trip which had many more passengers booked onto it.
Unfortunately, the driver only realized his mistake when the bus had reached nearly Hanover, having completed about half the journey.
To the dismay of the 40 passengers on board, the driver made a U-turn and drove back into North-Rhine Westphalia and to the city of Dortmund.
“We thought it was a joke,” Christiane Schinkel, a politician from the Pirate Party who was travelling back to Berlin said.
Despite offering to get off the bus at Hanover and make the rest of the journey to Berlin themselves, the passengers were told that they had to stay where they were.
“I felt robbed of my freedom,” one passenger from Berlin said.
“There is no reason to take us to Dortmund against our will,” Schinkel vented on Twitter.
— Glückskind (@lainee42) August 14, 2016
“I think that the excuse ‘there is no other possibility’ is completely outrageous,” she added later.
When the bus finally trundled into Dortmund the frustrated passengers were transferred to a smaller replacement bus, but even then they had to wait an hour and a half, meaning they reached their final destination six hours late.
The enraged passengers have now said they want to file a lawsuit.
“The crux of the issue is not that the mistake happened with the wrong bus. But we should have been allowed to get off in Hanover,” Schinkel maintained.
A spokesperson for Flixbus said that, although the decision to make a U-turn was “extremely unpleasant” for the guests, there was no other solution.
The company ash now offered passengers a complete refund and has offered them a voucher for a trip anywhere in Europe.
But Schinkel, for one, isn't satisfied.
“Who would want to voluntarily take another trip with Flixbus after such a dubious action?”
Flixbus has the most extensive bus network in Europe, offering 100,000 daily connections to 900 destinations across 20 countries.
Born as a startup in 2013, the company has grown rapidly, taking over British bus company Megabus in June this year and then swallowing up German competitor Postbus earlier in August.