Germany’s FlixBus wants to take over the US by making long-distance bus travel cool

FlixBus gets ready to muscle in.
FlixBus gets ready to muscle in.
Image: EPA/Piroschka van de Wouw
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A network of lime-green-and-orange buses has taken over Europe. Now it’s looking to conquer the US.

Since launching in Germany in 2013, FlixBus has exploded into the largest bus network in Europe, transporting 40 million passengers last year, and stealing business away from national train services.

FlixBus undercuts rivals with flexible, ridiculously low prices—its US website offers tickets from $2.99—which it sets based on demand, Uber-style. It also plays up its tech-savviness, with an app that lets you buy e-tickets and GPS-track your bus, and offers free wifi, entertainment, and power outlets on board.

This week it revved up its engines in California, launching 180 connections out of Los Angeles. According to FlixBus USA managing director Pierre Gourdain, the shared-mobility habits of young people in the US market make it the perfect time for the Munich startup to hit the West Coast highways. “We needed to know if the market was asking for this,” Gourdain said. “And what we saw blew our mind.”

Gourdin added that the “new generation does not want to drive anymore” as it’s not an efficient use of time. The bus giant’s overarching ambition is to revamp the shoddy image of bus travel in the US. “We’ve done this in Germany and Europe over the past few years,” co-founder and managing direct Jochen Engert said. “Riding a bus was just not cool. And now this is our challenge in the US.”

FlixBus partners with local bus companies across 28 European markets, branding their buses in the its distinctive lime green livery. It’s launching with eight partners in the US, and shooting for services to some 20 cities in the west of the country by the end of the year.

The impossible-to-miss buses may soon appear in Greyhound’s rearview mirror. The iconic 104-year-old company, which is owned by the UK’s FirstGroup, dominates the US intercity bus market. Over on the east coast, Greyhound also has its own budget bus company BoltBus, where Stagecoach-owned Megabus operates too.