Flixbus: departure time change, zero communication, admits fault but will not reimburse

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Jul 8, 2019
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#1
When Flixbus moved their departure time one hour earlier and didn’t tell me, they would not reimburse me for a trip arriving at about the same time. I encourage other consumers to avoid this company until they improve their customer communication and care programs.
Here’s my story.
Monday night, July 1, I waited in my friend’s car at the University of Arizona Flixbus stop. “Where are they?” we kept asking, because the ticket said to be there 15 minutes early, and it was 9:10, the departure time, then 9:12, then 9:15... No bus.
I called customer service, pressed #1, & listened to on-hold music. My friend searched their site and found a bus to LA, my destination, that had left at 20:10 (8:10), an hour before the time printed on my ticket – 9:10 PM, July 1. I was taking a bus to an international flight, LA to Philly to Athens. Panic rising while Mohammed in Flixbus’ central Europe customer service line told me he had no idea what happened with my bus, I agreed when he asked me to call back in 10 or 15 minutes. Backstory here: I’d bought the ticket in May. My flight to Athens left Los Angeles at 9:35 on July 2, and I figured an ecological/simple way to get there was a bus. I’d taken a Flixbus once from Dusseldorf to Munich in Germany with no problems. The Flixbus leaving Tucson at 9:10 PM and arriving in LA at 6:20 AM the next day seemed like a sensible, if unconventional, choice. Both its arrival times and drop off location in LA seemed preferable to Greyhound.
None of that planning mattered now. While my friend looked up alternate ways to get to LA, I thought out loud: “Am I going to have to drive to LA tonight to make this flight?”
“Where would you park?” he asked. Fair: Airport parking near LAX would be complex and expensive for my time frame, July 2 – 20, and I had a bus back from LA to Tucson on the return leg. Driving was out. How was I going to make my international flight?
On my second customer service call, Mohammed informed me that Flixbus didn’t know why it had happened, but that my bus had left already. “Sorry,” he must have said. I don’t remember a lot of the conversation, as stressed as I was; its upshot was that the ticket I’d purchased could be refunded and reimbursement for alternate travel costs could come from the company. He mentioned “rail,” but there’s no train from Tucson to LA, and no other bus would arrive at any hour near my originally scheduled time. My friend found an American Airlines flight leaving Tucson at 6:00 that morning, which would arrive in LA at 7:20 AM – within an hour of the intended arrival time on the original Flixbus. I gulped and booked it: $263.30, plus a $30 dollar baggage fee I’d pay at the airport, plus taxi - another $25 - emailed Flixbus to inform them about the problem, and tried to sleep.
I’m aware of my personal privilege in the big picture: I’m lucky at all to take such a trip. I’m also aware of the wealth, privilege, and power wrapped inside that company name, Flixbus. That’s why I’m telling you this story. Here’s how they feel about their customers:
The next day, between landing in LA and boarding the first leg of my Athens flight, in relply to an email from me, Senior Customer Service Manager Daniel Hirsch wrote, ”Our investigation revealed that there was a timetable update to your ride that occured on May 23rd, however due to an operational reason, it does not appear that our Customer Service team properly notified you of this change.” Flixbus admitted they had not done their duty to me. They never let me know the bus was leaving an hour earlier than originally scheduled.
Mr. Hirsch went on to say that they would refund me the original ticket price ($24.99), plus:“we are willing to cover the difference between this (attached) Greyhound ticket ($88.00 + taxes & fees = $90.50) less your FlixBus fare of $24.99 for a total alternative carriage reimbursement of $65.51.” Mr. Hirsch didn’t care about the Greyhound arrival time, totally different than the bus I’d booked - late morning, as opposed to early.
With all due respect, Flixbus’ estimated annual revenue (according to owler.com) of 30 million dollars suggest to me that $300, the total cost to me of fixing their mistake in a reasonable way, is well within their budget. In short, they could have afforded a realistic reimbursement for forgetting to tell me they moved the departure time up an hour. Unless they learn the communities they’re serving, and improve their communication and problem-solving practices, I think they’re unprepared to break into the American market. This was the worst, and most expensive, travel error I’ve encountered.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
18,927
17,143
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#2
I wouldn’t let this go. I suggest you appeal to Mr. Hirsch again and state that he admitted they did not notify you about the time change and at the last minute your best option was the AA flight and again request reimbursement for the airline ticket and cab.

If he doesn’t agree, use our company contacts and go over his head.

https://www.elliott.org/company-contacts/flixbus/

I would state in my letter that you have used their buses in Europe and had pleasant experiences and you looked forward to similar service here and that you are asking them to reconsider your request and reimburse you for the last minute transportation you had to arrange.

Give the executive in Germany a week to reply. If he doesn’t or says no, repeat until you have gone to the top.

Let us know how you make out.
 
Jul 8, 2019
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#3
I wouldn’t let this go. I suggest you appeal to Mr. Hirsch again and state that he admitted they did not notify you about the time change and at the last minute your best option was the AA flight and again request reimbursement for the airline ticket and cab.

If he doesn’t agree, use our company contacts and go over his head.

https://www.elliott.org/company-contacts/flixbus/

I would state in my letter that you have used their buses in Europe and had pleasant experiences and you looked forward to similar service here and that you are asking them to reconsider your request and reimburse you for the last minute transportation you had to arrange.

Give the executive in Germany a week to reply. If he doesn’t or says no, repeat until you have gone to the top.

Let us know how you make out.
I did write to Mr. Hirsch again, but have heard no reply for two days so far.
 
Jul 8, 2019
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#5
I agree with you about time frames for companies to reply.

I will wait for the moment, and I appreciate the links.

Time will tell if consumer advocacy nets results; certainly in the morale-boost domain, it's valuable.

I'll keep this post up in the loop if they update their position.
 
Jul 8, 2019
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#7
Here below find Mr. Hirsch's response to my second email regarding the issue. I will most certainly write a reply to a different company executive using your recommendations. Any specific insight would be appreciated. My perspective is that Mr. Hirsch uses an impractical line of reasoning to support his position (i.e. a bus is a like object and therefore equivalent to the faulty product Flixbus sold me; an arrival time is immaterial and not to be considered when defining comparable transportation). I believe that he believes this to be true, but in actual logic, it's rather unlikely to work for any traveler. Time is a real factor. In any case, here are his thoughts:

Dear Lisa Levine,
Thank you for providing your address details. I have prompted a check in the amount of $65.51 as a gesture of goodwill and without any recognition of a statutory duty to the address you have provided as our final compensation in this case. The check should arrive in the next 5-7 business days.

As previously stated, as per our Terms & Conditions, we can only compensate towards comparable carriage. In this case, we took the most expensive Greyhound ticket between your ticketed origin and destination on the week of your incident as the basis for this carriage and this will offset your election to use a flight to get to your ticketed destination. It is not intended to cover your expenses in full, but will be the extent of our compensation to you. Accordingly, upon receipt of this payment, we are considering this matter closed.

We look forward to an opportunity to restore your faith in our product and services on a future FlixBus journey.

Daniel Hirsch
Sr. Manager, Customer Service
FlixBus, Inc.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
18,927
17,143
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#8
Move to the first executive in Germany. Tell him there was no time at that point to get to LA for your flight without flying and you are asking them to make an exception and to ensure this never happens again.
 
Jul 8, 2019
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#11
I would like to update this thread to say that I contacted the executive listed on your Flixbus page (Pierre Gourdain), waited a week, and have heard nothing. Meanwhile, the company's minimal reimbursement arrived.

I may pursue this, as it was a pricey mistake on their part. What I can say for sure is that Flixbus service is costly and unreliable, despite the initial low cost to book a trip. Greyhound has a terrible reputation, somewhat merited, but at least their bus service times run late rather than leaving early without notification.

It's too bad; American travel needs community transport, but not at the expense of customers.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
18,927
17,143
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#12
Now go to the last executive we list, tell him who you wrote to and that you have not received a response and you would appreciate if he would look into this.

If you get no response a week later, go back to the help pages, put in a new request and state that you write to all contacts and haven’t received response. The advocates will look at the case and see if they think they can help.
 
Jan 11, 2019
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#17
I'm a little confused. Are you wanting Flixbus to pay for your airline ticket? Could you have taken a Greyhound bus to LA or was it too late to buy a ticket? I think Flixbus, although they messed up, feels they only owe you a refund plus a difference between the cost of the 2 bus tickets.
 
Jan 11, 2019
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#18
I'm a little confused. Are you wanting Flixbus to pay for your airline ticket? Could you have taken a Greyhound bus to LA or was it too late to buy a ticket? I think Flixbus, although they messed up, feels they only owe you a refund plus a difference between the cost of the 2 bus tickets.
Sorry, read your post again and see you couldn't get another bus ticket that arrived on time for you to catch your flight in LA. I know people on this site usually say if the airline screws up all they owe you or will give you is a refund. I suspect the bus companies will be the same way unfortunately.