Lufthansa Airlines; The Grinch That Stole Our Christmas

by Andrés Felipe Díaz · 5 comments

in Travel Thoughts

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I was extremely happy to arrive at Dublin Airport after a 20 hour + journey all the way from Cali, Colombia. The entire journey had been great so far; all the flights were on time and I was even one of the first people to make it through customs when we arrived in Dublin. I was about to see Steph, who I hadn’t seen in four months, and who was waiting on the other side. I just needed to pick up my luggage from the baggage reclaim.

However my bag never arrived. After so much traveling during the last few years, this was the first time my bag had not arrived at my final destination. I waited until everyone had picked up their bags and left. My bag still didn’t appear.

Steph, on the other side of the arrivals door, knew something must be wrong, but all she could do was wait and see if I would emerge from behind the doors.

Flying with Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Dublin, I wasn’t all that worried about my bag not turning up. Lufthansa is a huge German airline with years of experience, so I was certain that they would take care of everything and I would have my bag in a few days, if not sooner.

The hope that Lufthansa would take care of the situation and would sort it out quickly, was far from the reality. I have been nothing but disappointed and frustrated with their mediocre policies and their abysmal customer service, that I feel it is necessary to document it all here.

Then Their Customer Service Happened…

It has now been 49 days since I arrived in Ireland and my bag has never shown up. Whether it was lost, put on the wrong flight, or stolen is now irrelevant to me. Filled with Christmas presents for Steph and her family, gifts that my friends in Colombia had given me to pass on to her, and contents which I have calculated to be worth over 3,000 EUR, it has been a big loss…and right before Christmas.

What have Lufthansa done to make it up to me, to regain my trust as a customer, to show that they actually care? Nothing.

If I hadn’t pursued them on Twitter relentlessly, I never would have gotten as much as an email, phone call, or apology. In fact, I still haven’t received a phone call.

Lufthansa lost baggage - customer service

It took this many tweets to finally get a response to my email.

I sent three emails in total; they replied to one after 19 days, and only because I insisted on Twitter.

I initially called them to inquire about the process for lost bags; they told me “Only 1% of bags get lost…the other 99% always turn up”. And of the 1% of bags that get lost, 99% are found within a few days…so they assumed that explaining the process to me was obviously pointless.

I called again and spoke to another representative who told me I would be compensated 80-100 EUR per day, up to 21 days after the bag goes missing. I still have not received this compensation.

I again spoke to another representative who told me another version, in which I would have to spend my own money  buying ‘basics only’. Then I would have to send the receipts from my purchases, by post, to Germany…only to be reimbursed 50%!

So, wait, Lufthansa…even though I paid for your flight in advance, with the trust that you would take me to my destination without any problem, you don’t trust me enough to give me credit to spend on basic necessities. Instead, you want me to spend my money and then you’ll reimburse me? Do you think if I was booking a flight with you again, you could buy it for me and I’ll pay you back when I’ve reached my destination and confirmed that everything went well?? No? Didn’t think so…

Meanwhile, the team in Dublin Airport who deal with lost luggage, Sky Handling Partners, were a joy to work with and it was them who informed me about the Montreal Convention, which entitles all passengers, whose luggage has been lost, to 1,200 EUR in compensation. It was Sky Handling Partners who informed me that after 21 days, the bag is officially ‘lost’ and it was Sky Handling Partners who consistently called me to give me updates on the possible whereabouts of my bag.

All the while, Lufthansa continued to ignore me, give me contradictory information and seemed very unapologetic and uninterested in the fact that I was left with no clothes, no gifts and no toiletries on my arrival to a foreign country.

According to Lufthansa’s policy, of only reimbursing 50% of the value of repurchased items, it means I would have to spend 2,400 EUR in order to get the full 1,200 EUR compensation I was entitled to. Unfortunately, as a self-employed entrepreneur just starting my own company and trying to get funding, I didn’t have a spare 2,400 EUR lying around to spend on clothes and other things.

So what now?

I am still waiting for compensation from Lufthansa, who are now blaming Avianca, who are in return blaming Lufthansa. My bag is nowhere to be found, my patience with them has long ran out and I’ll be soon returning to Colombia. I’m going to have to buy a new suitcase too, but that’s not covered under Lufthansa’s ‘only basics’ policy.

I was on the phone to my web host provider this week and they offered me free assistance on an upgrade I was doing because their system had a bug that day, which had disrupted my work. I asked them, “Why?” and they replied, ‘We like to go that extra mile for our customers’. I wish Lufthansa looked at it that way, but unfortunately this company which deals in traveling great distances can’t even go the extra inch.

Anyone who’s flown with Lufthansa knows how expensive they are. My trip consisted of two Lufthansa connections out of three in total; from Bogotá to Dublin via Frankfurt. The Montreal Convention states that you are entitled to 1,200 EUR in compensation and…

“it requires airlines to fully compensate travellers the cost of replacement items purchased until the baggage is delivered…At 21 days any delayed baggage is considered lost, even if the airline delivers it after that period.”

Why don’t Lufthansa go that extra mile? If only 1% of passengers lose their bag, and 99% of those ‘lost bags’ are found, then would it really cost so much for this multi-million dollar company to do more than what the laws states they HAVE to do? Lufthansa, why compensate the minimum possible amount that you can get away with? The contents of my bag were worth over 3,000 EUR. Will you really refuse to pay me the full amount, after you have lost my bag?

Day 49: I still have not received a single cent from you; just empty promises.

I will update this post as the saga continues. Let’s see if Lufthansa steps up to the plate

Update 1: Surprise, surprise! Two days after publishing this post, which was shared extensively on Twitter and Facebook, Lufthansa responds promptly, and suddenly gets authorization to pay the compensation. Like we assumed, they will pay us the minimal possible amount according to law, plus a random 64.18 extra (I have no clue where they pulled that number from!). The total compensation will be 1,264.18 EUR.

Update 2: Lufthansa tells us that it will take 10 working days to receive the money in the bank account we specified. I leave Ireland in 8 working days…

Update 3: After requesting that they speed up the payment process, I receive the compensation on the 31st of January, three days before I leave Ireland.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cassandra January 20, 2014 at 4:18 am

This is infuriating! I hope that Lufthansa will address the situation. I can’t believe they won’t even acknowledge you, that is horrendous.

I also had an unpleasant run-in with Lufthansa when I was traveling home for Christmas in 2011. My ticket was with United, and Lufthansa was the partner responsible for the 1st leg of my 3-flight journey. However, they insisted that they didn’t have my reservation in the system. The Lufthansa rep at the counter was so mean that she actually spat out “you must either be taking a car or a boat to Frankfurt, because you sure aren’t flying there.”

Excuse me! So what happened was United blamed Lufthansa and Lufthansa blamed United and neither one wanted to allow me on the flight. I finally made it home but not with any help from Lufthansa. I wrote about it on my blog here: http://geecassandra.com/boating-to-frankfurt-or-whatsapp-saves-the-day/

Good luck with your reclamacion!!
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2 TammyOnTheMove January 20, 2014 at 6:38 pm

How annoying! Don’t let them get away with it though. Keep nagging them on twitter, facebook, email and phone. I’d also tell them about this post, so they can see that a lot of other travellers will see how rubbish they are. I hope you get your bag or compensation soon.
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3 martin January 27, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Lufthansa is not responsible for this, its the ground staff. Ground staff workers often steal bags, i did this too when i worked for gs as a student. I managed to get an ipad1 for free. Best thing is, you will never get caught lol

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4 Frank January 31, 2014 at 10:15 am

Wow, so much for German efficiency! I’ve never had a problem with them, in fact they’ve always been pretty good to me (well, except for the seating which seems tighter and tighter..). Sorry to hear about all you’ve gone through! Really good to know the rules/regulations when it comes to lost baggage.
Frank (bbqboy)
PS Martin – that’s nothing to be proud of.

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5 Steve February 3, 2014 at 4:34 pm

That’s a horrible situation to be in. I feel your rage! After awhile you just don’t care about the contents, but it’s become more about the principle and trying to get a just result.

If only you could do something to annoy the company themselves, and get back at them, ha.
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