Disastrous experience in CGN, now in SFO without luggage

Old Aug 7, 19, 6:38 am
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Disastrous experience in CGN, now in SFO without luggage

Dear Flyertalk community,
after a disastrous experience with Eurowings ground staff in Cologne, a >4h delay from CGN to SFO that involved taking a train to FRA and arriving without luggage, I have a few questions. Maybe some of you know what I could do:
1. Most important: Is there any way I can speed up getting my luggage?
2. How to help the EW staff in Cologne get a better job training?
3. How to make sure a call with the FTL hotline, that was recorded for training purposes will actually be used for training purposes?
4. How to best thank the gentleman in charge of the LH lounge in Cologne, who went above & beyond to get me on a flight to SFO?

Here's what happened (sorry for the long text):

I had booked CGN-ZRH-SFO, using M&M miles to fly business class (EW to ZRH, Swiss to SFO). I checked in luggage without anyone informing me that the flight to ZRH was expected to be 70 min delayed (the layover in ZRH was supposed to be 60 min). --> This should not happen imho. I could have looked for better options while still having the luggage.

About 10 min after check-in, I was in the LH lounge and noticed that the flight to ZRH would be so delayed that I would most likely not make the connection.
The lounge staff referred me to the Eurowings transfer desk near gate B80. The young lady sitting there informed me that I would not make the connection because the flight to ZRH would take 2 hours (!), that I should nonetheless take the flight to ZRH (!) and then contact the transfer desk there, and that she couldn't do anything more to help me, because she cannot access the Austrian airlines (!) booking system. She then handed me the standard EW complaints flyer and suggested I contact their hotline. --> I was speechless!

Back in the LH lounge, the gentleman in charge was a bit shocked at this and promised to see what he could do. In the meantime, I called the SWISS hotline, as I felt they might be in a better position to tell me whether I might miraculously make the connection due to a delayed SWISS flight. They told me that I would not make the connection and that I should contact the FTL hotline for other flight options --> As far as I have learned, this is not quite right; Eurowings as the carrier causing the delay should get me rebooked.

I called the FTL hotline and after I explained the situation, the guy taking the call put me on hold for 10 min to figure out my options. In the meantime, the friendly lounge gentleman told me the LX flight from ZRH to SFO was on time and suggested two alternative routes: FRA-SFO, arriving about 4 hours later than booked, and CGN-MUC-SFO, arriving about 3 hours later than booked (one seat left in business class).
The FTL hotline guy suggested CGN-MUC-ORD-SFO, arriving more than 7 hours later than booked and with the last leg from Chicago flying in ECO. I was not happy with that and asked about the direct flight MUC-SFO. He told me that I could only get on flights on which seats can still be puchased with miles, and therefore the direct flight was not possible for me. --> No! EW causes me to miss the connection, so I shouldn't be constrained to flights that at this point are still available for miles.
After a bit of back and forth I said something like "ok, can you tell me the times of your suggested flight?" (he still hadn't given me those details). While he did that, the lounge gentleman gestured that I should not take this flight and went on the phone with Eurowings. The FTL hotline guy then told me the flight details and informed me that he had already rebooked me! I told him that I didn't want to be rebooked to that flight. He insisted that I had given that order, became quite rude and said that the call is being recorded and that they could send me the recording to prove I had ordered the rebooking! --> Again, speechless! I am glad this call was recorded and would like it to be used for training purposes to show how NOT to work.
The friendly lounge gentleman now had the problem that Eurowings could no longer find my booking, as it had been deleted. Nonetheless, he managed to convince the Eurowings ticket staff that they were indeed responsible for rebooking me and asked me to leave the security area, go there and get rebooked.

I did and was rebooked on FRA-SFO (the one seat on CGN-MUC-SFO was no longer available at this point), having to collect my luggage at CGN and take a train to FRA. After a while, the friendly lounge gentleman even called me on my mobile to check whether everything had worked out! Great example of great customer service in a bad situation! --> How can I best thank him or notify his superiors of this great service?

I then wanted to collect my luggage, which should have been unloaded. It was nowhere to be found. I was told that probably the plane had left with my luggage to ZRH(!). Is that even possible? I took the train to FRA and checked in with UA. The check in agent called Eurowings to inquire about my luggage but was told that they couldn't give him any information until I had filled out a lost luggage form in SFO. We tried to do it with UA already in FRA, but were told I would have to do it in SFO.

After a nice flight, I reported the lost luggage with UA. They recorded the UA flight details and the EW baggage tag number. Maybe they also recorded my original flight details, but they don't show up in the United Baggage Tracing Results I can see online. More than 24h after it was first discovered in CGN that my luggage was lost, there is still no information on where it might be. --> Anything I can do to speed up getting my luggage? I will only be at this hotel for two days and go on a road trip afterwards.

Thanks!
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Old Aug 7, 19, 7:32 am
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Reporting your bags missing to UA is in fact the correct process. Fault is irrelevant to responsibility and the responsibility falls on UA as the final delivering carrier. If the flight details are incorrect in WorldTracer when you look online, call UA back and make sure that UA has the correct details. At the same tine, make sure that WorldTracer has a correct description and also a good mobile number for you.

UA will reimburse you for your reasonable expenses for necessities until your bag is delivered. Presumably you have the first 3-4 days of clothing in your carry on, so this may be a minimal exercise given that the vast majority of passengers are reunited with their bags within 2-3 days at the most. Keep receipts and when the bags are returned, total up the expenses and submit to UA along with receipt copies. You are covered up to approximately EUR 1,150.

If by some chance the bag cannot be located within 20 days, it is considered lost or stolen and UA will reimburse for the fair market value of the bag and its allowable contents up to EUR 1,150 (including the interim expenses you have run up).

You may find that your travel insurance provides more generous coverage, particularly if it provides a set amount per day.

When you trip is done and you are back home and depending on the reason for the original EW delay, you may be entitled to delay compensation of EUR 600 (delay exceeding 4 hours at your final ticketed destination of SFO). The reason for the delay matters and one presumes that you know that from your dealings at CGN.

Finally, EW is responsible for a duty of care no matter the reason for the delay. If you purchased a meal or somesuch, that and the train ticket to FRA should be submitted to EW (unless you have chosen to use the travel insurance route).

Forget about the training issues. It will or will not happen and you will not be told. It isn't up to you to worry about how EW runs its business. Rather, it is up to you to determine whether EW meets your standards and to avoid it if it does not.
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Old Aug 7, 19, 7:59 am
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After reading fancynicks report, I reminded myself again of my resolution to not fly EW ever again!
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Old Aug 7, 19, 8:14 am
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Thanks a lot for your detailed reply! You're right, I shouldn't worry about how they run their business - it's just frustrating, especially as they are hard to avoid when living in Cologne.I hope the luggage will arrive soon.
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Old Aug 7, 19, 8:34 am
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Sorry to hear about your problems. IRROPS are to be resolved at the airport, not by calling the issuer of the ticket. It was a mistake calling the FTL line - M/M can only rebook you if award seats are available (as you were told). EW could have (and should) have rebooked on whatever flights to SFO that had available seats in business class.
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Old Aug 7, 19, 8:42 am
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Originally Posted by fancynick View Post
Thanks a lot for your detailed reply! You're right, I shouldn't worry about how they run their business - it's just frustrating, especially as they are hard to avoid when living in Cologne.I hope the luggage will arrive soon.
From Koln, do you save much time by flying from CGN versus taking the train to FRA and flying from there? It's too bad that the LH Airport Express train no longer operates as it once did, with the ability to check in for flights and check bags right on the train, although there's still the advantage that some DB trains go into the FRA station with no need to transfer.
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Old Aug 7, 19, 9:21 am
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Originally Posted by SK AAR View Post
IRROPS are to be resolved at the airport, not by calling the issuer of the ticket. It was a mistake calling the FTL line - M/M can only rebook you if award seats are available (as you were told).
Fortunately this has not been my experience. Unless there is no or only a short queue at the airport I usually call the SEN line and I cannot remember a case where they couldn't rebook me outside of the ticket rules in an IRROPS situation. OK, I use EW only for direct flights and never use them with connections because they are an IRROPS nightmare (CGN is one of my departure airports, too).
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Old Aug 7, 19, 10:12 am
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
From Koln, do you save much time by flying from CGN versus taking the train to FRA and flying from there? It's too bad that the LH Airport Express train no longer operates as it once did, with the ability to check in for flights and check bags right on the train, although there's still the advantage that some DB trains go into the FRA station with no need to transfer.
On a long-haul flight, I wouldn't save much time by flying from CGN. On flights within Europe, it's often the only feasible option. In this particular case, it was the long-haul award ticket that was available for me as an FTL, it seemed convenient and I generally like flying with Swiss.

Originally Posted by demiurg View Post
Fortunately this has not been my experience. Unless there is no or only a short queue at the airport I usually call the SEN line and I cannot remember a case where they couldn't rebook me outside of the ticket rules in an IRROPS situation. OK, I use EW only for direct flights and never use them with connections because they are an IRROPS nightmare (CGN is one of my departure airports, too).
That's what I had expected/hoped the FTL line would do. But I learn, and I will try to avoid EW on connections in the future, especially if the turn-around seems short (60 min layover in ZRH as booked by M&M should have alerted me as being rather optimistic, knowing how delayed EW often is...).
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Old Aug 7, 19, 10:38 am
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Originally Posted by Viennafly View Post
After reading fancynicks report, I reminded myself again of my resolution to not fly EW ever again!
EW irrops can be managed much better if you are on a 220 ticket which was the case for the OP. There the agents can atleast rebook you onto alternatives and use the ticket.

Irregs on EW ticketless reservations are the ultimate horror as there is no alternative.
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Old Aug 7, 19, 10:46 am
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Irregs on EW ticketless reservations are the ultimate horror as there is no alternative.
In that case the passengers books the flight himself and claims back the ticket costs afterwards.

The young lady sitting there informed me that I would not make the connection because the flight to ZRH would take 2 hours (!), that I should nonetheless take the flight to ZRH (!) and then contact the transfer desk there, and that she couldn't do anything more to help me, because she cannot access the Austrian airlines (!) booking system. She then handed me the standard EW complaints flyer and suggested I contact their hotline.
That lady was the culprit.
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Old Aug 7, 19, 12:01 pm
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I would not book a ticket on my own unless I was either quite wealthy or my need to be in San Francisco was a matter of life & death. One may, of course, always claim anything one wants. But, collecting is another matter.

A single in J CGN-SFO at walkup prices is likely to be extraordinarily expensive and one takes the chance that EW will not pay and that one has to sue and possibly even lose. In any event, one is out of pocket thousands of Euros for somewhere between a very long time and forever.

Less of a problem if one is on a cash ticket and the cost of the new ticket is not much different. Take the refund on ticket #1 , but ticket #2 and then if there is a difference, fighting with the carrier about that amount is less of a strain.
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Old Aug 7, 19, 1:10 pm
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The young lady sitting there informed me that I would not make the connection because the flight to ZRH would take 2 hours (!), that I should nonetheless take the flight to ZRH (!) and then contact the transfer desk there, and that she couldn't do anything more to help me, because she cannot access the Austrian airlines (!) booking system. She then handed me the standard EW complaints flyer and suggested I contact their hotline. --> I was speechless!

This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. You're standing in front of someone and if they don't want to spend their time they'll tell you "oh, just get on the first flight and the agent at xxx will help you. They've just shuffled the issue off to someone else and you're no longer standing in front of them. The answer is NO, no, no, no, you will rebook me now. The sooner you get rebooked the better and options evaporate. Don't let them get away with it.
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Old Aug 7, 19, 2:00 pm
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Originally Posted by milepig View Post
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. You're standing in front of someone and if they don't want to spend their time they'll tell you "oh, just get on the first flight and the agent at xxx will help you. They've just shuffled the issue off to someone else and you're no longer standing in front of them. The answer is NO, no, no, no, you will rebook me now. The sooner you get rebooked the better and options evaporate. Don't let them get away with it.
Show of hands: How many times have frequent travelers been in an IRROPS line and see other, shall we say, infrequent travelers being lied to and fobbed off? ('Oh come back tomorrow and they will try to get you on standby then, we cannot do it tonight. or..."I can get you to Duluth, it lands t 1AM- just see the agent there for the next flight"...stuff like that)
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Old Aug 7, 19, 2:13 pm
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Originally Posted by Exec_Plat View Post
Show of hands: How many times have frequent travelers been in an IRROPS line and see other, shall we say, infrequent travelers being lied to and fobbed off? ('Oh come back tomorrow and they will try to get you on standby then, we cannot do it tonight. or..."I can get you to Duluth, it lands t 1AM- just see the agent there for the next flight"...stuff like that)
Does it count if I was fobbed off? To be fair it was not an IRROPS line, just the checkin counter. still I had to assert that I don't want to just end up in Prague when the next connecting flight was two days later to get the lady to at least pick up the phone and ask. No luck as alternatives were full... but I had to use a "call a friend" option to figure out what is going on. Ended up with less delay than advertised and the connecting flight being thankfully held, but still a bad option.

The other time I've gone and switched IRROPS line for the desk at the lounge (which was extremely helpful), but mainly because of the line.
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Old Aug 9, 19, 1:32 am
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Originally Posted by milepig View Post
The answer is NO, no, no, no, you will rebook me now. The sooner you get rebooked the better and options evaporate. Don't let them get away with it.
While in principle I agree with you, I'd rather take a flight to a hub than risk remaining stuck at an outstation with maybe a flight a day (or less!).

Contract staff at outstations are pretty much powerless and all they can do is get on the phone with the airline and hope someone at the other end will help them, but rarely have access to the full range of options.

What definitely helps is to get on the phone while waiting to speak to someone at the airport, and get rebooked like that. The protip is to never hang up until the email with the new ticket has landed in your inbox.
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