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When trains are cancelled (at least in Europe), and there are no alternative ways to get travellers to their destination by train a little bit later, there are often replaced by buses to get travellers to their destination.

Currently, I've been rebooked twice to get on a flight to a destination that is only 383 km by road. Originally I should have flown on Monday evening, and currently I'm booked on a flight Wednesday morning, effectively a 36 hour delay. If the airline had booked a bus, all Monday evening passengers would have arrived to the other airport by Monday night, with perhaps a 4–5 hour delay. To me, it would make sense from the perspective of customer satisfaction.

Does it happen that airlines offer to bus passengers to their destination when cancellations lead to multi-day delays, but a bus would take only several hours? If not, why not?


Many passengers, including me, travel to destinations beyond the airport that is 383 km by road, but travelling the short-haul flight segment by bus in order to wait for the first available connection would still benefit travellers.

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    I have seen this in the airline I work for, at least twice in case of sand storms. The problem is, one bus is not enough to replace most airplane models, and why would the airline bothers if its policies and regulations clearly states no liability? – Nean Der Thal Aug 26 '14 at 22:20
  • @MeNoTalk The Embraer ERJ-135 that was cancelled in my case has 37 seats. It seems small airplanes are common on short-haul flights. For comparison, some double-decker buses have 84 seats. Theoretically, airlines might bother to have more satisfied customers (5 hour delay vs. 36 hour delay). – gerrit Aug 26 '14 at 22:25
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    I once was bumped from a flight and put on a flight to another city 90 km away. The airline paid for a taxi to take me to my intended destination. Does that count? :-) – Nate Eldredge Aug 26 '14 at 23:55
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    It also often happens that a flight is bound for City A, but due to weather or mechanical reasons must divert to nearby City B, which the airline does not normally serve. In such cases it often happens that the airline charters a bus to carry the passengers onward to City A. I can find examples if you are interested. – Nate Eldredge Aug 27 '14 at 0:00
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    Not sure about the canceled flights but they can definitely offer flights that are actually buses check United Flights 6540, 6541, 6543. – Karlson Aug 27 '14 at 2:17
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I've been offered train connections (rather than bus) in two intra-German cases with Lufthansa where the flight was cancelled, but a good ICE (high speed train) connection between the two cities exist. Basically airline staff gave me the choice: be re-booked for next day, or take the train and arrive a few hours late.

(The fact that Lufthansa often cooperates with Deutsche Bahn anyway may play a role here, including that some connections marketed with regular flight numbers are actually high speed train connections - especially short hops from Frankfurt, e.g. Frankfurt-Stuttgart. But: the particular trains I was given were NOT such trains and I was simply given a normal train ticket + reservation by the airline.)

In this case I suppose cost for accommodation or train would have worked out roughly the same for the airline, so they offered the choice to the customer - but that's a guess of course.

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I have been offered a bus ride between Basel and Zurich (along with 50 or so other passengers) to catch a flight to my final destination after a cancellation by SWISS so there is no taboo against that and the answer to your question is "Yes, they do!". They organized it pretty quickly as well, so they were apparently ready for that, should the need arise.

I guess each airline will make specific decisions based upon what's available/what they are used to do, how much it costs, how many passengers they need to accommodate, what passengers are entitled to in their locale, etc. If that's not part of their standard policy or procedure, organizing a bus in a timely manner might be difficult.

Note that the bus needs to be somehow paid for, whereas the next day's flight is going to fly anyway so adding one passenger costs essentially nothing. That might figure in the decision.

  • Accommodation also needs to be paid for, though. – gerrit Aug 26 '14 at 22:42
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    @gerrit It depends. Like I said, it's all down to the specifics (which you haven't provided). But it's not true that airlines never do it so it makes no sense to search for a general explanation. – Relaxed Aug 26 '14 at 22:44
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    @gerrit: Depending on the reason for the cancellation and local laws, accomodation may or may not need to be paid for. For instance, in the US, if a flight is cancelled due to weather, the airline need not (and typically does not) cover accomodation. – Nate Eldredge Aug 27 '14 at 0:02
  • Also trains being replaced by bus is very common for commuter trains in the Netherlands (they even have “NS bus” stops outside some stations) but it's not a general rule “in Europe” either. For long-distance trains in other countries, I have been offer a reroute or a hotel and when there are large scale disruptions (e.g. strikes), passengers are typically offered a refund or a chance to travel in the next few days, not busses for thousands of people. – Relaxed Oct 5 '16 at 16:30
  • Was bus the only option? Did you try to request a train ride instead? – varepsilon Aug 31 '18 at 16:26

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