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Federal Armed Forces members are allowed to continue to fly on domestic dates despite the regulation on free train tickets for soldiers. In a memorandum the Budget Department of the Ministry of Defense emphasizes that the agreement with the railway does not touch "the previous freedom of choice of the means of transport in carrying out business trips". The report was requested by Green Party politician Tobias Lindner.
With its unambiguous formulation, the Defense Department dispels hopes that the free-flight regime for soldiers could also have positive climate effects. Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer had reached a few weeks ago in tedious negotiations with the railway that soldiers in uniform may travel free of charge. The journeys should make the Bundeswehr more present in public, announced Kramp-Karrenbauer.
7876 flights between Bonn and Berlin in 2018 - Tendency for 2019 rising
Just a few days ago, the Ministry of Defense had announced that the number of German domestic flights could be reduced because of the agreement with the railway. The "New Osnabrück newspaper" said a Ministry spokeswoman, the free travel offer could well lead to a kind of "train duty", as soldiers are similar to officials are required to choose the most economical means of travel for business travel.
The defense department is far ahead of other federal ministries in domestic German aviation, since the Bonn Hardthöhe is still the first headquarters. For 2018, the internal statistics alone list 7876 flights from ministerials between Bonn and Berlin. Calculated on the year cost the pendulum just under one million euros. In total, soldiers and civil servants booked 13,437 domestic flights, or about 1120 per month. The trend for 2019 is rising.
The soft-flushed line of the Ministry in limiting the frequent flyer by soldiers is also due to internal resistance. Shortly after the agreement with the railway complained to the Bundeswehr Association, no soldier may be forced to travel by train. The matter is actually clearly regulated. The travel expenses rules of the Bundeswehr state that transport costs are not reimbursed "if a free transport option can be used".
Soldiers and Bundeswehr officials argue with time savings
As a matter of principle, business trips to the Bundeswehr are subject to a choice between rail and domestic flights, which must be signed by the supervisor. On the Bonn-Berlin route, traveling soldiers and civil servants argue that while the train is cheaper, it takes about three hours longer compared to the flight time. Consequently, in the airmen from Berlin to Cologne / Bonn and back every day plenty of uniformed and civil servants from the military department.
The news that the soldiers for service appointments will continue to book plenty of domestic flights, as Kramp-Karrenbauer should not fit into the program. Within the past few weeks, inner-German short distances had come into focus because of the debate on climate protection. The Grand Coalition wants to agree on a catalog of measures on how Germany can still achieve its international climate goals. Greater taxation of domestic flights is one of the options.
The Minister herself sets a symbolic example of climate protection. Kramp-Karrenbauer does not fly with her own government jet for her inaugural trip to Washington next Monday, but together with the Chancellor to New York. From there, the minister continues to travel to the US capital. After a meeting with her counterpart Mark Esper at the Pentagon, it's back to Germany - instead of the flight readiness by scheduled flight.