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TRAIN TRAVEL

EXPLAINED: How to not be ‘bumped’ from an overcrowded Austrian train

Austrian trains have been overly crowded recently, with some people who had valid tickets having to be removed for "safety reasons". Here's how to make sure you get to your destination.

EXPLAINED: How to not be 'bumped' from an overcrowded Austrian train
An Austrian ÖBB train speeds through the country. (© ÖBB / Harald Eisenberger)

Train travel is a safe and relatively comfortable way to get around Austria, but there is still much to do to make these journeys better for travellers, especially for commuters.

In Austria, a combination of high fuel prices, the adoption of the subsidised Klimaticket, and Vienna’s new short-term parking system, combined with other factors including a green surge and nice weather, has led to an increase in the search for train travel.

The operator ÖBB expects an even higher surge in the next few days, as warm weather meets holidays in Austria. This has led to several journeys being overcrowded, with people travelling standing up or being removed from trains when they reach capacity and the number of people compromises safety.

READ ALSO: Half-price Europe train tickets on offer in Interrail flash sale

“Safety is the top priority. If the train is too full to be guided safely, passengers must be asked to get off. If they don’t do it voluntarily, we have no choice but to get the police. This happens very rarely,” Bernhard Rieder from ÖBB told broadcaster ORF during an Ö1 interview.

Why are trains overcrowded?

There are several reasons for the surge in train travel, but they boil down to two things: rising costs for other means of transportation and environmental worries.

With galloping inflation, Austrians have seen prices of fuel climbing, and as the war in Ukraine continues, there is no likelihood of lower petrol prices any time soon.

At the same time, since March, Vienna (the destination for many domestic tourists and commuters) has instituted a new short-term parking system, basically removing free parking in the streets of the capital.

Driving has become more expensive when everything else seems to be costly, and many Austrians turn to train travel. Particularly for those who are holders of the Klimaticket, a yearly subsidised card that allows for unlimited travel for just over €1,000 – early buyers could get a hold of the ticket for under €900.

READ ALSO: Nine German expressions that perfectly sum up spring in Austria

The ticket allows travellers to “hop on and hop off” as they wish, making occupancy more unpredictable. However, it is possible to reserve seats even if you have them, and there are low-budget bundles for commuters.

The Klimaticket was created in an effort with the Environmental Ministry, looking to increase the use of greener transport alternatives in Austria.

The environmental concern is also one of the reasons why train travel is on the rise globally – travelling by train is also more convenient in many cases, with comfortable seats, free wifi, a dining area and the fact that you can start and end your journey in central stations instead of far-away airports.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Trains are in fashion so why is rail travel across Europe still so difficult?

Why won’t ÖBB only sell as many tickets as there are train seats?

A reasonable question, but that is not possible with the way train journeys operate in Austria – and in most countries.

Some tickets are “open” and flexible, meaning that people can board any train from a specific time. These are particularly useful for commuters who might be late leaving work, for example.

Additionally, holders of the Klimaticket and other regional yearly offers don’t need to buy tickets. They only need to show their Klimaticket card with an ID once checked.

READ ALSO: Austria’s nationwide public transport ‘climate ticket’ now available

What is ÖBB doing to avoid overcrowding?

After the several incidents of overcrowding when people even had to leave their trains despite having valid tickets, ÖBB announced it would bring additional trains for the peak season around the holidays (May 26th, June 5th and 6th and June 16th), increasing the number of seats by “thousands”, according to a press statement.

What can I do to guarantee my journey?

Despite the increase in offer, the operator still warns that “on certain trains, demand can still exceed capacity”.

The best way to try and guarantee your journey, according to ÖBB, is by reserving a seat.

READ ALSO: One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

“A seat reservation is the best way to use the most popular train connections. Starting at €3, you can reserve a seat in ÖBB trains in Austria”.

Reservations are available online at tickets.oebb.at the ÖBB app, at the ÖBB ticket counter, and at the ÖBB customer service at 05-1717.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Austrian Airlines’ boss warns of price hike for flight tickets

Travellers from Austria face a rise in the cost of flight tickets, Austrian Airlines CEO Annette Mann has warned, as well as travel headaches caused by staff shortages at airports abroad.

Austrian Airlines' boss warns of price hike for flight tickets

Increasing fuel costs will make flight ticket prices more expensive just ahead of the summer holidays, Austrian Airlines boss Annette Mann told Ö1-Morgenjournal on Friday.

She said tickets are expected to rise by “a few euros” for short flights but by €50 to €100 on longer distances. Travellers will continue to see increased ticket prices all throughout 2023 and possibly longer, according to the executive.

However, the airliner is not suffering from a shortage of personnel problems that affected several companies, including its parent company Lufthansa.

READ ALSO: Strikes and queues: How airline passengers in Europe face summer travel chaos

This is due to the short-time work (Kurzarbeit) program in Austria, which provided financial assistance to companies that did not cut jobs during the pandemic.

However, she mentioned that a “summer Covid wave” could affect personnel numbers, given people will need to take sick leave if they get infected. Still, Mann said that Austrian Airlines hired 150 new people as cabin crew to deal with the high demands on air travel.

‘We are dependent on other airports’

She did alert that, despite the company having enough personnel, they depend on the situation in other airports. “If there are delays or missing luggage in other airports, we might be affected by that”, Mann said.

The statements are in line with what Austrian airport operators have already said, as The Local has reported.

“In Vienna, our partners and ourselves succeeded, particularly through the instrument of short-time work, to keep as many personnel as possible in employment. Unfortunately, however, this is not the case at many other airports we also serve,” explained Austria Airlines spokeswoman Sophie Matkovits.

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

Even though airports and Austrian airlines are fully operational, they are not solely responsible for the flights. Furthermore, the companies stress that local operators can’t influence the situation at other airport locations.

Vienna Airport recommends checking the flight status and planning more time than usual for departure on intense travel days.

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