German Politicians Lose Business Class Flight Privileges

German Politicians Lose Business Class Flight Privileges

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Effective immediately, German politicians will be traveling a bit less comfortably (thanks to Klaus for flagging this)…

German Bundestag members to fly economy on most flights

Germany’s Bundestag (federal parliament) has updated its travel policy, in hopes of slashing travel costs by roughly half. Up until recently, Bundestag members have had the option of traveling in business class on virtually every flight.

That’s no longer the case — effective immediately, business class travel is only approved on flights of four hours or longer, while members must only book economy on shorter flights. In other words, on flights within Europe, these politicians will no longer be booking business class. Admittedly intra-Europe business class isn’t much to get excited about, but it at least gives you priority services, a blocked adjacent seat, and premium food and drinks.

Per a memo from the Bundestag’s president:

“In order to be able to approve business trips over the entire course of a financial year, if possible, this will in future be done for flight durations of less than four hours for economy class and no longer for business class.”

The Bundestag has arranged for members to be able to purchase access to lounges and fast track security lanes, in order to improve the quality of travel. However, the cost for these services isn’t known.

What’s prompting this change? In 2023, the Bundestag’s annual travel budget was dried up within five months, as few members voluntarily chose to save on travel costs by booking in economy. Rather than increasing the budget, the travel policy is just being changed, as it’s believed that resources can better be used in other ways.

German politicians will travel less comfortable

The interesting travel perks politicians receive

Travel policies aside, it’s interesting to see how travel perks differ around the globe for politicians. Some examples come to mind, including ones that involve Germany.

For one, up until 2022, German Bundestag members actually received Lufthansa Miles & More Senator elite status. This benefit was cut due to an update to the ethics policy for politicians in Germany. Bundestag members have a limit on the gifts that they can receive for ethical reasons, and that limit is 25 Euro, and obviously that status was worth more than that.

So now Bundestag members have lost both Miles & More Senator status and business class travel privileges, meaning that flying is a lot less pleasant for them than it was in the past.

Beyond that, in Germany many politicians can actually request to skip the security checkpoint at airports (I believe this policy is still in place, but I’m not 100% sure). This policy doesn’t get much publicity, and it’s my understanding that while politicians can make this request, a vast majority don’t take advantage of this.

On a different note, I’ve always found it strange how politicians in Australia are given an invitation to the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge, which is an invitation-only club for VIPs. I know companies and organizations exercise soft political power in all kinds of ways, though creating a special lounge and inviting celebrities and politicians sure seems to create a pretty major conflict of interest, if you ask me.

Qantas has a special lounge for politicians

Bottom line

Effective immediately, members of Germany’s Bundestag can no longer fly business class on flights of under four hours. This decision comes after last year’s travel budget was depleted within five months, so the goal is to manage costs by not increasing the budget. I’m sure this is something that many politicians won’t be happy about…

What do you make of Germany’s travel policy change for politicians?

Conversations (40)
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  1. John Ashby Guest

    Most Australian corporations fly business class only if flight is over 4 hours duration. Basically this means you are leaving Australia (and NZ). Yet politicians fly business class within Australia. While the 'Chairman's Lounge' may offer further privacy - what the heck! Are these not servants of the public on the taxpayer funded purse? Qantas is mostly government owned which lies at the heart of this obvious conflict.

  2. John A Guest

    The calibre of politician in Australia is not very good or maybe there are just too many? A number of inducements or 'entitlements' seems to add to the malaise. Despite compulsory voting most politicians are removed from everyday issues due to party lines. Thus the need for inducements ala, lounge access and more - not corruption 'per se' but just entitled largesse.

  3. Morgan Diamond

    Qantas actually have gifted our PM's son chairmans lounge as well - this was in the media due to the PM having to declare this 'gift' for him and his family members.

  4. Mark Guest

    Oh my ... poor German politicians ... Unfair !!! I am German, living in the US, and at 6'7" I do need longer seats :-) ... I hope none of my fellow German folks are this size ... It is endearing to downscale ... but this is a little much !! Give them Eco Plus at least !!! They don't make a whole lot of money either !

    1. Nick Guest

      What's the link with the article? We are talking about short-haul flights, Business class seats are the same as in economy in European short haul.

    2. Jerry Wheen Gold

      Seat pitch in the first rows often is bit higher, and the middle seat remains empty (or one of two seats in a two seat configuration).

  5. Alex Guest

    I can only imagine people like Sheila Jackson Lee in the US being told she'd have to sit in coach. She was banned from Continental in the 90s and still throws a fit if she doesn't get her seat up front. Her sense of entitlement is awful. She could learn a thing or two from German politicians.

    1. Yon Guest

      Dude, just say the N word and get it over with. I just googled that "Her issue was she was reassigned from her seat" not one time since the incident has she thrown a "fit" if anything she one of the few that have highlighted the overall cutting of corners we have seen in the aviation/ travel industry for the last 40 years, YET here we are in 20 of 24 and you somehow found...

      Dude, just say the N word and get it over with. I just googled that "Her issue was she was reassigned from her seat" not one time since the incident has she thrown a "fit" if anything she one of the few that have highlighted the overall cutting of corners we have seen in the aviation/ travel industry for the last 40 years, YET here we are in 20 of 24 and you somehow found a way to bring a AA politician from America into the mix?

      FUNNY ENOUGH their have been numerous times where elected officials get perks and bump fellow passengers from flights "BeCaUse oF ThIEr TiTLe" on Flyertalk forums..Rachel Reeves BA row in the UK, Cruz skipping town and getting caught as his states freezes over, MTG,Kyrsten Sinema needing a "private escort", Boebert and anti mask rants only to be found on flights masked up? Tom Price FFS??!?? using military planes and shutting down air space numerous times just to have a 10 min talk with his son and they fly back to DC under Trump; all at taxpayers’ expense and that was within first 4 months. Plenty of recent "entitled" ppl in DC and around the world have this issue, YET you need to find a story from 30 years ago... Told on yourself

    2. Mark Guest

      Thank you. I want THIS woman - and many others - to fly first class FOR FREE !!!!

  6. Sam Guest

    Qantas can make a VIP lounge if they like, the politicians are the ones who are creating the conflict of interest by accepting the invite

  7. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

    As a 6'8" tall man who travels to Germany/Switzerland often: they should be given the choice to pay for the difference out if pocket if possible. Literally cannot fit into US/Europe economy seats.

    1. Tim Dunns Mom Guest

      what are you talking about. its the same legroom regardless for intra EU biz

    2. Ben Holz Guest

      Lol yeah, very few airlines actually offer more legroom in J (and if they do it's like 2cm). Also, I am not even that tall and in many cases opt for emergency exit seats, you're not gonna get more legroom anywhere else in the plane.

    3. Alex Guest

      I used to work for a carrier and suggested that we make economy tickets upgradable by the individual passenger after purchase for a reasonable fee. They would have none of that and instead left money on the table by giving away the seats for free to those with status. Incredible.

  8. Jerry Diamond

    I think a 4h requirement is totally reasonable. 735 members flying 2h hops in J is expensive. Hopefully now that they ride in the back, they'll pressure LH to bring back drinks and food to Y.

    1. Max Guest

      The issue are the 735 members, why the heck does Germany need the largest permanent parliament (Chinese people's congress doesn't count as its not permanent but only meets for a few days a year) in the world? Reduce it to something sensible (333 members maximum) and the travel budget would be sufficient for appropriate business class travel.
      735 members just doesn't make any sense at all, especially so considering that above that there is...

      The issue are the 735 members, why the heck does Germany need the largest permanent parliament (Chinese people's congress doesn't count as its not permanent but only meets for a few days a year) in the world? Reduce it to something sensible (333 members maximum) and the travel budget would be sufficient for appropriate business class travel.
      735 members just doesn't make any sense at all, especially so considering that above that there is also the EU parliament and Germany being federalized with another 16 regional parliaments that do wield quite some power.

  9. digital_notmad Diamond

    Fascinating culture difference from the US, where even if politicians achieve status via their travels, they'll often decline any upgrades so as to not appear "out of touch with the common folk" or whatever.

  10. Marcus Guest

    At Cisco you flew only economy regardless of the length of the flight. I recall at Intel the CEO flying economy. Apparently Charlie Munger at Berkshire only flew economy. But politicians fly business on taxpayers money!

  11. George Romey Guest

    Many won't shut up about climate change. Force them to take a train and if a train isn't available than don't go.

  12. Albert Guest

    For short-haul this change makes sense, but I am glad that they are keeping Business Class for over 4 hours (perhaps it should be 5)
    The way that so many companies, and western governments, now expect staff to travel overnight in Economy and don't care about the reduced quality of work the next day is depressing.

  13. John K Guest

    The Australia reference re Chairmans Lounge got my attention. Effectively Qantas are buying the loyalty of people of influence in the government as well as high profile journalists / media executives. Not only is the Chairmans Lounge much more pleasant that the business lounge (I have been as a guest), the staff are authorised to upgrade anyone in economy to business (every time I have been they upgraded me to business and was seated with...

    The Australia reference re Chairmans Lounge got my attention. Effectively Qantas are buying the loyalty of people of influence in the government as well as high profile journalists / media executives. Not only is the Chairmans Lounge much more pleasant that the business lounge (I have been as a guest), the staff are authorised to upgrade anyone in economy to business (every time I have been they upgraded me to business and was seated with my friend who was already in business, an incredible perk if you are a person of influence but buying an economy flight for personal travel, for example). This type of perk has huge influence on decisions (think Australia denying Qatar more slots, and many years ago denying Singapore the ability to fly SYD-LAX). Glad to see the Germans taking a much more pragmatic approach!

  14. KW Guest

    Meanwhile in Australia, pigs at the trough.

  15. A_Japanese Gold

    In Japan, MPs are tagged as “VIP” and able to use dedicated VIP porch, separate VIP lounge and crew security lane if they use JAL or ANA international service and departing from Haneda or Narita. Also, their luggage’s are treated as F luggage with even more care regardless of class of flights - MPs always use at least business class regardless of the duration if they are traveling in official capacity.

    Japanese MPs are also...

    In Japan, MPs are tagged as “VIP” and able to use dedicated VIP porch, separate VIP lounge and crew security lane if they use JAL or ANA international service and departing from Haneda or Narita. Also, their luggage’s are treated as F luggage with even more care regardless of class of flights - MPs always use at least business class regardless of the duration if they are traveling in official capacity.

    Japanese MPs are also given choice between unlimited 1st class train pass or 4 return flights (economy class) to their constituency per month.

    1. Albert Guest

      That choice between unlimited 1st class train pass or 4 return flights (economy class) seems just right.

    2. Max Guest

      In Germany MPs still receive unlimited free 1st class high speed train travel with access to DB Lounges for all their travels, even for private purposes.

  16. Samo Guest

    What's with this "European C isn't something to get excited about" narrative? Priority check-in, fast track at security and lounge access make a huge difference, turning stressful experience into a relaxing one, not to mention letting you arrive even an hour later than you would for Y flight. Of course if you fly regularly, you already get those perks via a status, but most MPs probably don't.

    Whether it's worth the money of course...

    What's with this "European C isn't something to get excited about" narrative? Priority check-in, fast track at security and lounge access make a huge difference, turning stressful experience into a relaxing one, not to mention letting you arrive even an hour later than you would for Y flight. Of course if you fly regularly, you already get those perks via a status, but most MPs probably don't.

    Whether it's worth the money of course depends. For example, I always upgrade at BA, where it's cheap (usually 80-120€ one-way) and also comes with great F&B on board, while I never upgrade at Lufthansa for example.

    1. Ben Holz Guest

      This whole intra-EU vs US domestic J topic has discussed endless times here. Honestly, as much as I'd like to respect everyone's opinion regarding this, intra-EU J just seems like an outright scam to me, let alone something to be excited about. More often than not you're paying over double your Y fare just for a blocked middle seat.

      Like you mentioned, priority check-in/boarding, fast track security and lounge for those that travel often...

      This whole intra-EU vs US domestic J topic has discussed endless times here. Honestly, as much as I'd like to respect everyone's opinion regarding this, intra-EU J just seems like an outright scam to me, let alone something to be excited about. More often than not you're paying over double your Y fare just for a blocked middle seat.

      Like you mentioned, priority check-in/boarding, fast track security and lounge for those that travel often enough, are already included, but even if you don't have status, you can typically buy these as add-ons to your Y ticket. On the topic of lounges, I sometimes even opt out of these, because a dimly-lit overcrowded room isn't my definition of comfort (as can be the case during peak hours and at many outstations).

  17. Andy 11235 Guest

    Maybe if they were required to take the train within Europe, we'd see faster improvement on cross-border rail service.

    1. Samo Guest

      That's hardly something German MPs can improve. This needs to be done at the EP and EC level.

    2. Max Guest

      @Samo
      False, currently it's mostly Germany that's behind on the EU rail agreements. Despite being the most central country and only consisting of mostly flat land, Germany has not been building/upgrading the promised new rail lines. All neighboring countries are waiting for it.
      Meanwhile the Swiss have completed the engineering marvel that is the Gotthard base tunnel a few years ago. Whereas the German flatland connection on the other side is still missing.

    3. LEo Diamond

      Deutsche Bahn operates some of the world's foremost trains, yet the intercity routes they serve are often constrained. Many of these routes, built a century ago, are ill-equipped for modern demands, with no current plans for rail line upgrades. This is partly because many routes are not owned by Deutsche Bahn themselves. Unless the German government devises a plan for new mainlines similar to Japan's Shinkansen or France's TGV, travel speeds will remain low due...

      Deutsche Bahn operates some of the world's foremost trains, yet the intercity routes they serve are often constrained. Many of these routes, built a century ago, are ill-equipped for modern demands, with no current plans for rail line upgrades. This is partly because many routes are not owned by Deutsche Bahn themselves. Unless the German government devises a plan for new mainlines similar to Japan's Shinkansen or France's TGV, travel speeds will remain low due to the widespread speed limits on most German routes.

    4. UncleRonnie Gold

      German train networks and lines are more modern than the UK (WWII bombing would have taken care of that). UK can't even introduce double-decker trains on most routes because there are low-level listed bridges or tunnels that cannot be altered without incurring the wrath of the heritage people.

  18. LEo Diamond

    They should have a policy that within Germany, one must travel on rail or bus unless otherwise not possible for scheduling to make sure these politicians get a grasp of the state of German public transport

  19. CJ Guest

    Being able to fly business class on flights lasting longer than 4 hours is very generous. I work for one of the top 10 largest companies in the world, and the travel policy is that business class is available for flights longer than 7 hours.

    1. LEo Diamond

      PG? 10 years ago for APAC was only 4, slowly pushed to 6 before covid, meaning unless you are visiting Australia, likely you can't travel business anymore within APAC. 4 was definitely the prime days, SIN-PVG, SIN-KIX etc.

  20. David Guest

    Up until 2022 every member of the Parlament was given a Lufthansa SEN card. This was cut, as it is considered a soft bribery.

    They do still get a free unlimited 1st class train pass.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ David -- Great point! Just updated the post to add that, since I covered the story at the time. Thanks.

    2. Max Guest

      In light of the laughable DB Deutsche Bahn performance, the free fist class train pass can't be seen as a bribery but as a nuisance that the politicians should get additional monetary compensation for.

  21. VladG Diamond

    This should go into effect worldwide, certainly at EU level.

    1. Ken Guest

      Especially in Canada, where salaries and travel budgets just keep increasing.

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Albert Guest

For short-haul this change makes sense, but I am glad that they are keeping Business Class for over 4 hours (perhaps it should be 5) The way that so many companies, and western governments, now expect staff to travel overnight in Economy and don't care about the reduced quality of work the next day is depressing.

2
Samo Guest

That's hardly something German MPs can improve. This needs to be done at the EP and EC level.

2
digital_notmad Diamond

Fascinating culture difference from the US, where even if politicians achieve status via their travels, they'll often decline any upgrades so as to not appear "out of touch with the common folk" or whatever.

1
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