Seat reservations: increasing social distance by reducing availability

We want to ensure that you can maintain a suitable level of distance from other passengers on our trains, so we are modifying our seat reservation system. Now, only 60 percent of all seats on long-distance trains will be available for advance booking. This helps us to create the space that protects passengers during the pandemic. We have compiled a list of answers to the most important questions about this change.

What does it mean when DB says that some seats cannot be reserved?

  • Starting today (27 November 2020), passengers can only reserve window seats on the vast majority of our services. Aisle seats are for the most part now blocked in our booking system, which means they cannot be booked.
  • In the case of seats around a table, passengers can only make reservations that position them diagonally, i.e. one person is at the window on one side, and the other in the aisle seat on the other side of the table.
  • Only two seats can be reserved in each compartment.
  • If people are travelling together, they can use designated spaces in first and second class containing adjacent seats that can be reserved together. This makes sense from a public health point of view, as it enables people from a single household to travel together and not sit at different locations in a train. When all of these measures are combined, only approx. 60% of seats are now available for reservation. The reservation process has not changed: passengers can continue to use the coach diagram on bahn.com and in DB Navigator to select their seats. We recommend that people travelling on long-distance trains reserve seats.

Why have you changed your reservation policy?

In response to Germany's current infection rates, the central and state governments have introduced wider-ranging measures and extended their duration. These also include requirements for rail operators, which we are now putting into action. We want to make train travel even safer for the weeks ahead of us. This entails taking steps that make social distancing easier on board our trains. In addition, we expect the government's decisions about Christmas (such as starting the holiday period earlier) to result in somewhat higher demand in the days leading up to 24 December. We want our new reservation system to provide everyone intending to travel by train at Christmas with the best possible assistance at the earliest opportunity.

Why doesn't DB just make reservations mandatory?

We currently have no plans to make reservations mandatory, as we want our customers to always have the option of catching a train at short notice. Around Europe, many other rail operators offer passengers, in particular commuters, the same flexibility as we do. This goes for ÖBB in Austria, SBB CFF FFS in Switzerland, NS in the Netherlands and NMBS/SNCB in Belgium.

Which seats have been blocked in the reservation system?

  • In open-saloon coaches, almost all aisle seats are blocked as of 27 November. Two seats can be reserved at tables in these carriages, but these seats are positioned diagonally.
  • Max. 2 seats can be reserved in compartments, and these seats are positioned diagonally.

How many seats are now available for reservation on trains?

As of 27 November, a total of approx. 60% of seats are available for reservation.

Do booked reservations remain valid (e.g. 4 people at a table)?

Yes

What is the situation regarding people who want to or have to sit together, e.g. families with young children?

  • People from the same household can and should travel as a group. This makes sense from a public health point of view, as it avoids making people from a single household sit at different locations in a train.
  • If people are travelling together, we have made sure they can use designated spaces in first and second class containing adjacent seats that can be reserved together.
  • These are indicated by the arrows in the coach diagram shown above.

Lots of families travel at Christmas in particular. Has DB made sure that these people can stay together on trains? Are enough adjacent seats available for reservation?

We will increase our capacities for people who want to travel over Christmas. Trains will have enough adjacent seats that groups can book.

If a family uses the website or app to make a reservation for several people at the same time, are the seats adjacent as a default setting in your system? Or does the family have to make sure they get to sit together when making the reservation?

Booking default seats depends on the the number of available reservations in a particular carriage. For this reason, we recommend using the coach diagram on bahn.com and in DB Navigator to select seats. Available seats are dark grey. Just click on one to select it.

What should a family do if all adjacent seats for reservation are gone?

People can use the coach diagram on bahn.com and in DB Navigator to select the seats they want. It is a good idea to check all of a train's carriages to see where adjacent seats are available. If these grouped seats have all been taken, passengers travelling together can either opt to sit apart or take a train at a different time.

Why can't compartments just be given to families? Wouldn't that be the best solution?

Our long-distance fleet consists of different train types. Unlike older ICE trains, the ICE 4 generation does not have compartments anymore, apart from the toddlers' area. This prevents us from creating a single, catch-all solution for families.

How long will seats be blocked?

We are watching developments closely, but seats will be excluded from reservation for as long as the infection rates make this necessary.

If seat reservations are limited, is ticket availability also limited? Do trains book up faster now?

  • Customers can use the demand indicator to see how busy their train is likely to be. This information is based on past figures and the number of bookings so far registered for a given train. Our system updates it continuously until the train is just about to depart.
  • Travellers can see very clearly in the travel information if over half of the seats on a train are likely to be occupied. We will close the booking process if demand for a connection is extremely high.

Do DB's measures completely prevent the reservation of aisle seats?

  • Travellers have been able to buy tickets for journeys on and after 27 November 2020 since 13 October. In other words, they were able to make reservations before the current restriction came into force. As a result, aisle seats might have been reserved in isolated cases.
  • In the case of cross-border connections, the company operating the service decides which places are available for booking.

I am travelling alone and the seat next to mine isn't reserved - can I be sure it will stay that way?

At the moment, passenger numbers are 20-25% of their normal levels, so it is very unlikely that two people travelling alone will end up sitting side by side. In addition, train attendants keep an eye out to make sure travellers are distributed properly throughout the train. Nevertheless, we want to make sure that people can catch a train without making a reservation - many regular passengers, such as commuters, often decide to make a journey at short notice. This "open system" of train travel remains very popular with our customers even despite the pandemic, and we want to keep it in place.

When I make a reservation, how can I tell if the seat next to mine cannot be booked?

Travellers can use the coach diagram on bahn.com and in DB Navigator to pick their preferred seat. Available seats are dark grey. Just click on one to select it.

If one seat in two is empty, why do I have to make a reservation? I'm bound to find somewhere to sit.

We recommend making reservations, particularly if you plan to travel for Christmas. This will ensure that passengers can maintain adequate social distance on board our trains.