Getting passengers back on-board: FlixBus’ road to recovery
For the latest instalment of Intelligent Transport’s exclusive COVID-19 recovery series, Andreas Schörling, UK Managing Director of FlixBus, discusses the importance of embracing new technologies to advance the transport industry’s sustainable development and highlights how the company’s tech-based model has played a key role in its post-pandemic recovery.
Flix was built to be resilient in the face of a crisis; our unique tech-based model proved itself to be the key to our ability to recover and thrive”
Looking back, entering the UK coach market in the summer of 2020 was ambitious, to say the least. No-one in the transport industry truly understood the extent to which we would be affected by lockdowns and travel bans. Two years on, having re-launched to the market in April 2021, we have flourished, reaching over 40 destinations across the country, most recently launching into the Scottish domestic market and an international line from Manchester, Birmingham and London to Paris. Our brand, which has been well-loved in Europe for several years, is now enjoying a similar reputation among passengers in Britain. We remain steadfast in our mission to become the UK’s leading coach provider.
Our parent company, Flix, has gone from strength to strength, having acquired the iconic Greyhound brand in 2021, and launching into Canada and Brazil in 2022. We are guided by our vision to provide green, smart transport for everyone, everywhere.
The secret to our success? Flix was built to be resilient in the face of a crisis; our unique tech-based model proved itself to be the key to our ability to recover and thrive. As a global company, we used the break from business-as-usual to innovate, improve our processes and streamline our end-to-end solutions. Our propriety technology puts customer needs and behaviours at the centre of our business, and this approach has fast become the blueprint for traditional transportation companies seeking rapid growth.
We have invested in a diverse portfolio of alternative drive projects to reduce emissions, including Europe’s first biogas-powered buses; electric buses in the U.S., Portugal, France and Germany; and solar panel-equipped buses in Spain”
We have always believed in building a sustainable future for the mobility sector. FlixBus is green in more ways than one1 – our UK fleet is made up of Euro 6 coaches, the most fuel-efficient and eco-friendly of its kind. Coaches move many people all at once, which is kind to the environment, emitting 81 per cent less CO2 per kilometre than car and 87 per cent less than plane. The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) recently found2 that shifting journeys from car to coach just once a month could save two million of tonnes of CO2 emissions.
We were the first to digitalise long distance travel, with innovation as our strategy. We are now leading the way in developing a sustainable eco-system which encapsulates efficient operations and vehicles, using technology to transform the transport industry. We have invested in a diverse portfolio of alternative drive projects to reduce emissions, including Europe’s first biogas-powered buses; electric buses in the U.S., Portugal, France and Germany; and solar panel-equipped buses in Spain. One of our most exciting new developments in sustainable mobility is in progress with Freudenberg and ZF, as we are creating the first hydrogen-powered long-distance buses, which will launch in 2023.
Join Andreas at Transport Innovation Summit 2022 – taking place from 9-10 November 2022 at Twickenham Stadium in London, UK – to hear him discuss the value of analysing passenger attitudes and behaviour, and how this analysis can deliver benefits for passengers, operators and authorities alike.
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Flix’s commitment to the environment also stretches to the consumer, as we offer our passengers to offset any CO2 emissions from their personal journeys through NGO atmosfair. In 2021, our customers saved 400,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions by choosing FlixBus, rather than by travelling by car.
World class, data-led solutions
A huge element of our development involves collecting and analysing vast quantities of data, which we use to improve reliability of timetables, accurately forecast demand and plan routes that passengers will purchase”
Flix began as a tech start-up, so it may come as no surprise that our technological development and data departments are our largest teams. Since 2013, we have harnessed technology to rapidly grow and become the leader in the travel industry, focusing on the passenger experience. A huge element of our development involves collecting and analysing vast quantities of data, which we use to improve the reliability of timetables, accurately forecast demand and plan routes that passengers will purchase, at affordable price points. We also use advanced technology to generate awareness and demand. By becoming the best in the end-to-end delivery of coach travel through digital solutions, we allow our bus partners to do what they do best – provide high quality coach services.
As we continue to scale our coach network, we rely on our seamlessly integrated technology to scale with us. We refine our digital tools and develop new programmes as we enter new markets and develop in existing ones. During the pandemic, we ensured that our coaches and trains were safe to travel on using social distancing and sanitation. Post-pandemic, each of our country markets relaxed restrictions at different times, but our model allowed us to react instantaneously to rule changes, offering consumers immediate opportunity to plan journeys and safely travel, in line with government guidelines.
Appealing to the digital-first consumer
The FlixBus app, which works across iOS and Android, offers simple, cash-free transactions in local currency, integrated with all major digital payment methods”
Our belief in the power of technology to shape the travel market does not stop at an operational level. During the pandemic, the use of e-commerce became more fundamental than ever – in the UK, for example, online shopping increased from 40 per cent to 75 per cent in a year3. While other industries sought to become digital-first, we already had advanced technology in place to handle ‘the new normal’.
Exceptional, intuitive user experience has always been key to our offering. The FlixBus app, which works across iOS and Android, offers simple, cash-free transactions in local currency, integrated with all major digital payment methods. The app, as well as our website, provides paperless e-tickets as standard, with a QR code (the contactless hero of the pandemic) for easy on-boarding, additional seat reservations and luggage. All of our coaches are equipped with free Wi-Fi, USB charging outlets and GPS live tracking, automatically sharing updates to passengers’ smart devices.
The future is Flix
Our commitment is to provide sustainable, reliable and affordable travel options for everyone, and our data-driven solutions and digital tools remain at the heart of our growth”
Our overarching ambition is to consolidate a previously fragmented market through technology and, for the UK, our vision is to become the leading coach provider, as we have done many times in multiple countries. Now available across three continents, 40 countries and over 2,400 destinations, with FlixTrain in Germany and Sweden, we offer consumers unique access to an international, long distance transport network. Our commitment is to provide sustainable, reliable and affordable travel options for everyone, and our data-driven solutions and digital tools remain at the heart of our growth. We are firm in our belief that technology is the future of travel and are always growing our network of partners and people.
If you would like to take part in our ‘Getting passengers back on-board: Transport’s road to recovery’ series, or would like to nominate a colleague to take part, please email: Halimah Haque, Editorial Assistant, Intelligent Transport.
Accessibility, Air Quality, Alternative Power, COVID-19, Fleet Management & Maintenance, Getting Passengers Back On-Board: Transport's Road to Recovery Series, Mobility Services, Passenger Experience, Public Transport, Sustainable Urban Transport, Ticketing & Payments, Transport Innovation Summit 2022, Travel & Passenger Information
Bus & Coach