German rail operator Deutsche Bahn exchanged a series of passive-aggressive tweets with teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg after she tweeted what may have been a misleading picture.
The 16-year-old was just named Person of the Year by Time Magazine and was returning to Sweden after a climate conference in Madrid. Thunberg refuses to fly and therefore uses rail for travel within Europe even though it is much more time-consuming.
Thunberg posted a picture of herself sitting on the floor of a Deutsche Bahn train with the caption, “Traveling on overcrowded trains through Germany,” the climate activist wrote. “And I’m finally on my way home!”
Traveling on overcrowded trains through Germany. And I’m finally on my way home! pic.twitter.com/ssfLCPsR8o
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) December 14, 2019
Twitter users promptly took Deutsche Bahn to task, criticizing the rail operator for overselling its trains and offering an overall uncomfortable passenger experience.
Small problem, though. Thunberg may have staged the photo and actually had a seat in first class…
Deutsche Bahn Sarcastically Responds to Thunberg
Deutsche Bahn responded sarcastically:
“Dear Greta, thanks for supporting us railroaders in the fight against climate change. We were happy that you were traveling with us Saturday in ICE 74.And that’s with 100% sustainable electricity.”
But in a follow-up tweet laced with shade, Deutsche Bahn added:
“It would have been even nicer if you had also reported how friendly and competently you were taken care of by our team in your seat in first class.”
Noch schöner wäre es gewesen, wenn Du zusätzlich auch berichtet hättest, wie freundlich und kompetent Du von unserem Team an Deinem Sitzplatz in der Ersten Klasse betreut worden bist. #Greta 2/2
— Deutsche Bahn AG (@DB_Presse) December 15, 2019
Thunberg’s response suggested that she had a seat and never suggested otherwise. She also lauded Deutsche Bahn for the full train.
Our train from Basel was taken out of traffic. So we sat on the floor on 2 different trains. After Göttingen I got a seat.This is no problem of course and I never said it was. Overcrowded trains is a great sign because it means the demand for train travel is high!
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) December 15, 2019
Deutsche Bahn followed with a press release that actually raises more questions than answers, suggesting she sat in first class for part of her journey…but perhaps not all…
“Between Kassel and Hamburg, Greta Thunberg was…looked after in a friendly and competent manner by the DB train team at their first-class seat.”
Ok, but what about from Basel, where Thunberg indicated the picture was taken?
At first I thought Deutsche Bahn caught Thunberg in a hypocritical lie. I’m not sure that is the case; she may have been on the floor for a short duration of her journey. I write about it because it should caution travel providers from getting into Twitter disputes with high-profile figures. Whatever really happened, I don’t think this “spat” reflects well on Deutsche Bahn.
image: @GretaThunberg / Twitter