Hosed by Lufthansa

Old Sep 2, 10, 2:50 pm
  #1  
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Hosed by Lufthansa

I have never been more angry with a company than I am with Lufthansa. My wife accompanied me to Germany for a business trip. From Germany, where we are now, we'll go on to Rome for the second part of my business. We were booked from Hamburg to Rome tonight, but my wife got a severe case of food poisoning two days ago and was unable to travel tonight as she is still very weak and feeling poorly.

The infuriating part is that Lufthansa is completely inflexible - once we no-showed tonight, the rest of her itinerary was canceled with no refund possible. This was nearly $800 for 4 short flights (FRA-HAM, HAM-FRA, FRA-FCO, FCO-FRA) and she only got to take 1 of the 4. I was told by a Lufthansa person on the phone that this was "a very economical ticket" (what a joke) and that is why no refund or change is possible.

Yes, I realize this is what the rules say, strictly interpreted. But I have never heard of an airline that would not accept illness as a legitimate reason to change an itinerary. We had called the doctor to look at her, and so we could surely have gotten a note from him, but that was not even suggested as a way to resolve the situation.

In the final analysis, we paid $800 for her to fly from FRA to HAM. And now we will spend another bundle to replace the canceled itinerary. It's unbelievable. I'm sitting here fuming, and I vow to never, ever fly Lufthansa again. I encourage anyone reading this who agrees that this is utterly ridiculous to also avoid Lufthansa. They are a heartless rip-off of an airline. This is not my first unpleasant experience with them, but it is certainly the last.
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Old Sep 2, 10, 2:56 pm
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Travel insurance?
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Old Sep 2, 10, 2:57 pm
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$200 per segment in Europe is fairly inexpensive for a 'full service' carrier and like U.S. airlines these low(er) fares have all sorts of restrictions.

Did you get a doctor's letter and contact LH before the flight?

My experiences with LH have been very good, but I have never "no-showed." I have bought some discounted flights that had change penalties, and was able to change them and in a couple cases have had the penalty waived. Then again I have SEN status and try to be polite.
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Old Sep 2, 10, 3:06 pm
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There's a trade-off when you buy a heavily discounted ticket and agree to the terms and conditions of the ticket, they are generally non-refundable, and skipping any leg voids all subsequent legs. Purchasing a more expensive, fully refundable ticket gives you more flexibility and probably would have resulted in a different outcome in this situation. What you faced is not specific to Lufthansa, many other airlines would have treated you the same way. When you purchase a discounted ticket, you are essentially self-insuring against this sort of situation. You can reduce the risk some by purchasing travel insurance, but you agreed to these terms when you bought the ticket.

Oh by the way, welcome to FlyerTalk. We hope you stick around and participate in the forums.
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Old Sep 2, 10, 4:25 pm
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I'm afraid you're not going to find much sympathy on Flyertalk for your situation. Most FTers believe that is very important that airlines stick exactly to the letter of their terms and conditions, and this is a prime example.

While I agree, where I feel the airlines shoot themselves in the foot is their poor communications skills and their (and their vendors') inability to inform customers about their ticket limitations at the time of sale. I guess they presume it will turn customers off if they clearly present the terms and conditions.

For example, during the ticket sale process there should be a large screen that says something like -

THIS TICKET IS NON-REFUNDABLE AND CANNOT BE EXCHANGED. IF YOU MISS ANY LEG OF THIS ITINERARY FOR ANY REASON, INCLUDING ILLNESS, OR ACCIDENT, ALL SUBSEQUENT LEGS WILL BE CANCELLED AND YOU WILL RECEIVE NO REFUND. THERE WILL BE NO EXCEPTIONS. DO YOU WISH TO CONTINUE?

....followed by a similar large screen that offers you insurance to cover you in this eventuality, and provides a similar message if you decline the insurance.
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Old Sep 2, 10, 5:14 pm
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cz_in_ca, welcome to FlyerTalk. I'll move this to the forum dedicated to issues surrounding Lufthansa. Ocn Vw 1K, Moderator, TravelBuzz.
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Old Sep 2, 10, 6:04 pm
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Travel insurance would cover this issue surely ?

Hope your wife feels better soon !
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Old Sep 2, 10, 6:09 pm
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I believe the sequence is very important here.
If you have phoned LH first - this usually resolvable but you could be asked to show some proof like a statement from your doctor.
If you did NS first, and only then phoned LH - that's not good....
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Old Sep 2, 10, 6:10 pm
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Originally Posted by gglave View Post
I'm afraid you're not going to find much sympathy on Flyertalk for your situation. Most FTers believe that is very important that airlines stick exactly to the letter of their terms and conditions, and this is a prime example.

While I agree, where I feel the airlines shoot themselves in the foot is their poor communications skills and their (and their vendors') inability to inform customers about their ticket limitations at the time of sale. I guess they presume it will turn customers off if they clearly present the terms and conditions.

For example, during the ticket sale process there should be a large screen that says something like -

THIS TICKET IS NON-REFUNDABLE AND CANNOT BE EXCHANGED. IF YOU MISS ANY LEG OF THIS ITINERARY FOR ANY REASON, INCLUDING ILLNESS, OR ACCIDENT, ALL SUBSEQUENT LEGS WILL BE CANCELLED AND YOU WILL RECEIVE NO REFUND. THERE WILL BE NO EXCEPTIONS. DO YOU WISH TO CONTINUE?

....followed by a similar large screen that offers you insurance to cover you in this eventuality, and provides a similar message if you decline the insurance.
LH lists the restrictions relatively clearly, and always offers travel insurance at time of booking...

To the OP: sucks, but the rules are the rules. If an airline always was as "flexible" as you wanted LH to be in your particular case, then what would be the point in buying flexible tickets in the first place? Your ticket was so cheap because it was non-changeable and non-refundable. Someone else paid a lot more for a flexible ticket (and made it possible for your ticket to be so cheap in the first place, by the way), so why would you get the same benefits he gets without paying the same price? Would that be fair? Certainly not.

Next time, buy travel insurance (or get a credit card that offers travel insurance). And maybe call the airline before no-showing - that might get you a lot further than calling afterwards and starting yelling around.
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Old Sep 2, 10, 6:55 pm
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Originally Posted by cz_in_ca View Post
But I have never heard of an airline that would not accept illness as a legitimate reason to change an itinerary.
This was true a very long time ago but it has been many, many years that a large number of airlines have tightened up their practices and are nowadays increasingly allowing of no exception other than death of a pax or close family member (even then, some airlines and tickets have no exception whatsoever even for bereavement).
It would have been wise to phone the airline rather than no show to at least find out what could be done if anything.

Originally Posted by Wombert View Post
Next time, buy travel insurance (or get a credit card that offers travel insurance)
True but in a way this is a very European answer. We Europeans routinely buy travel insurance. It is far less common in the US (and the premiums are usually substantially higher than in Europe) so it is perhaps not that surprising if the OP is US-based that he had no travel insurance.
LH's own policies reflect that too: Cheap eco LH tickets bought originating in the US usually have an 'emergency' provision which allows you to apply the value of your ticket towards the purchase of another ticket if you cannot fly due to an emergency. No such provision is to be found in tickets originating in Germany.

Since the OP had an intra-European ticket, it is no surprise that there was no emergency provision in it since the expectation for Europeans is that these things are dealt with through travel insurance.

Lesson for the OP: if you are in Rome, find out what the Romans do and why as things are not necessarily the same as they are at home.
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Old Sep 2, 10, 7:24 pm
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Is there any way you could at least get the airport taxes back?
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Old Sep 2, 10, 9:51 pm
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As others say - "no changes, no refunds" is pretty clear. It may be possible to game the system in the US but elsewhere the terms and conditions won't change just to avoid adverse comment. In fact, adverse comment is likely to ensure that any flexibility there might ever have been will evaporate. And if you think LH is inflexible, you should try the likes of FR and other locos.

Anyway, you should be able to get a reasonable deal with Air Berlin to fly direct to FCO - no faffing about with FRA - and had you done your whole itinerary as single tix with Air Berlin from the outset you'd probably have saved a bundle of money anyway.

And also, if you are travelling overseas without travel insurance then what do you think would happen to you if you got hit by a bus? Worth thinking about - one of my previous jobs was explaining to families in the UK that we wouldn't repatriate their gravely ill next of kin who had travelled abroad without insurance. A happy fringe benefit of travel insurance is that it would also help you reschedule flights in case of illness - but that's not the primary reason for having it.
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Old Sep 2, 10, 11:55 pm
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To the OP: Can you show that LH did not fullfil the contract in place when your wife's ticket was issued? From your description, your wife was a no-show, which means that as per the rules she signed when she paid the ticket, she lost any recourse at the time of the no-show. Why did she not call LH beforehand to let them know why she couldn't fly? The outcome might have been different. As it is at present, the legal situation seems to be clear.

So the OP's complaint is that LH should not stick to the legal stipulation in place at the time of purchase of the ticket but rather accommodate the OP's arbitrary expectation. Is this a reasonable expectation? If LH did that, it might open a legal can of worms invalidating similar restrictions for everybody else. Is this a reasonable expectation? -- I am not a lawyer, but I know the answer if I had to run a business.
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Old Sep 3, 10, 2:40 am
  #14  
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First of all, welcome to FT! Hope you stay loyal to us and not just vent...

To the topic: if your wife was sick for two days before departure, LH understandably would expect that you contact them before missing the flight. The no-show has complicated matters. If you had notified them in advance maybe they would have done something out of good will.

The 'good will' clause is why airlines (primarily in the US) allow you to bend the rules when things don't go your way. The legal framework in the US is also equally flexible for the airlines to wiggle out of the situation when things don't go their way too. European law is pretty harsh on the airlines if they don't keep their side of the deal/contract, so airlines decided to be very particular on making sure the consumer keeps up their side of the deal.

Hope you have a nice time in europe and your wife feels better soon.
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Old Sep 3, 10, 3:24 am
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Originally Posted by NickB View Post
Lesson for the OP: if you are in Rome, find out what the Romans do and why as things are not necessarily the same as they are at home.
And that's really good point
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