Five years after hitting the German market, private bus operator Flixbus has gained near-monopoly status in the long-haul bus business. It's now active in 26 countries and is hoping to expand to the US in 2018.
Called "the Uber of long-haul bus travel" by some experts, the Munich-based startup Flixbus has managed to turn into a real heavyweight in Germany — and Europe for that matter — within just five years.
The company boasts hundreds of thousands of daily connections to some 1,400 destinations in 26 countries. It controls 94 percent of the long-haul bus business on its home market.
When it was founded back in 2013, Flixbus profited from Germany's move to deregulate the bus market — previously only state-run operators were permitted to run shuttle services between cities across the nation.
"We were the fastest on the deregulated market among all contenders and had set our sights on a nationwide network right from the start," CEO Andre Schwämmlein told the AFP news agency.
Customer base swelling
Over the five years it has existed, Flixbus has attracted roughly 100 million customers. It's still engaged in a fierce battle to woo passengers away from trains, planes and cars. But with the extremely low fares that have set the bus company apart, the cards seem to be stacked in its favor.
Flixbus turned its first annual profit last year due to growing passenger numbers and its own expansionist policies. Its rapid development is in spite of the fact that it owns just one single bus. The rest of the fleet is owned by some 300 small- and medium-sized companies that Flixbus has "partnerships" with. A more accurate description would be companies that Flixbus has absorbed or franchised.
What Flixbus does is run the booking system, develop its smartphone app and organize the various routes and timetables.
Not resting on its laurels
And it keeps looking for new offers to make its bus service even more attractive. "We are mulling ways of entertaining passengers during trips," Schwämmlein said. He told the German business daily Handelsblatt that customers may soon be able to watch movies free of charge.
It's also considering forging alliances with airlines, including Germany's flagship carrier Lufthansa. Flixbus co-founder Jochen Engert told the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily on Tuesday that clients would certainly appreciate the offer of buying just one ticket for their journey from home via the airport to some European destination.
Flixbus also announced last year that it's hoping to enter the US market sometime in 2018. It wants to set up a base in Los Angeles, throwing the gauntlet to domestic providers Greyhound, Stagecoach and others in its first venture outside of Europe.
hg/aos (dpa, Reuters, AFP)