Three car rides, seven rubber ducks, and no suitcase later…

So I’m presently in Europe with my dad/Vater. I chronicled the start of our journey here, which was quite possibly my favorite flight ever thanks in no small part to how excited my dad was.

Upon landing in Frankfurt we walked to the First Class Terminal. Getting to immigration was a real hike from the gate we arrived at, so it was about 20 minutes before we made it to the First Class Terminal. It was my dad’s first time, so he was excited to say the least.

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Our A380 upon arrival

As the personal assistant greeted us I said “Hi, we’re coming from Houston and…” Before I could finish my sentence my dad jumped in — “yes, it vas on za A380, it waz very nice.”

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First Class Terminal exterior

Anyway, soon enough we were seated in the First Class Terminal. I grabbed a cubicle because I wanted to get some work done, while my dad took a seat and just relaxed. Here’s the thing, I don’t think anyone under 25 can sit still nowadays, yet my dad is absolutely brilliant at it. I felt guilty letting him sit there without much to do, but he was once again enjoying “za ambianz”

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First Class Terminal

Of course I wanted to be sure he wasn’t too bored, so I downloaded some stuff on my iPad for him to watch. Specifically, The Comedy Central Roast of Roseanne. Okay, so here’s the thing — it’s extremely entertaining, but it’s probably not the best entertainment choice for someone wearing noise canceling headphones in a quiet lounge. I could hear him laughing from my cubicle 20 feet away.

After that I headed to the shower room area to get one of the limited edition blue rubber ducks. Five minutes later I sent my dad to do the same, even though he had no clue why he was doing it.

At around 12PM we were driven to our connecting flight to Salzburg. There was one other passenger connecting from the First Class Terminal, so sadly we didn’t get a sports car, but rather one of the Mercedes vans to the plane. I know, probably a first world problem… 😉

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Views on ride to the plane

The flight was operated by an Austrian Fokker 100, though marketed as a Lufthansa flight.

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Austrian Fokker 100

Everything seemed fine, boarding was completed on time, we taxied to the runway and held short. I could tell something wasn’t right since other planes were taxiing by us and there hadn’t been a single announcement from the flight deck. After standing near the runway for about 10 minutes the captain came on the PA and in a very matter of fact way, without even introducing himself, said “ladies and gentlemen, we have a technical problem with the aircraft. We will return to the stand, buses will take you to the terminal, and you will get more information there.” That was it.

So we returned to our remote stand and sat in the plane for a few minutes as we waited for a bus to arrive to take us to the terminal. I was actually blown away that Lufthansa sent a first class van as well, so that the four first class passengers wouldn’t have to take the bus. The driver asked us to sit in the van for a few minutes as they figured out what was going on.

In the van it was me and my dad, a quiet, middle aged Japanese guy, and an older yappy guy from New York.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my over three million miles of flying it’s that crap happens and in situations like this you have to be patient for a bit, since nobody actually knows what’s going on. But things do solve themselves with time.

Meanwhile the New Yorker guy was throwing a fit. We were sitting in the van for all of three minutes before he got on the phone to his assistant and said “they’re holding us hostage in a bus and not giving us any further information.” He was panicking, and that started to send my dad into panic mode. Neither of the other guys spoke German, so my dad started asking the driver questions, and I had to tell my dad to just be patient. It’s not like the driver knew what was going on either.

At this point the New Yorker starts bitching about Lufthansa and how bad the service is. Meanwhile I’m actually impressed given that they sent a first class van when a mechanical happened. The New Yorker went on to bitch about how no one picked him up from his New York flight today and that Lufthansa was slipping, blah blah blah. After listening for a few minutes, the Japanese guy that hadn’t otherwise said a word says “no, you wrong, Lufthansa service good, just too many first class passenger and HON Circle.” You tell him, dude!

Meanwhile I tried to calm the guy down as well. I explained the next flight was at 5PM and had open seats, so once we got back to the lounge they’d be able to protect us on it.

Instead of being driven to the First Class Terminal we were driven to the “A” pier First Class Lounge, which is equally nice.

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“A” pier First Class Lounge

My first order of business, of course, was to go harass the spa attendant for a rubber duck. And then I had my dad do the same a couple of minutes later.

About 20 minutes later we were informed the flight was definitely canceled (up until that point it was “pending”), so we were given boarding passes for the 5PM flight.

At that point I decided to take a bath. They had changed shower attendants again, which meant another rubber duck was up for grabs.

Spending eight hours at any airport sucks… it just sucks slightly less at Frankfurt when flying Lufthansa first class. 😉

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I got all my ducks in a row!

This is the point where things actually get fun. While in the bathtub I remembered the ridiculously generous EU compensation rules for delays and cancellations. I think they’re actually too consumer friendly (or ultimately consumer unfriendly, because if the airlines actually had to pay these out to everyone airfare would go up), but I wanted to find out a bit more if for no other reason than so I could report back on the blog, since it’s not something I previously have experience with.

Articles five and seven of this suggest that if a flight with a distance of up to 1,500km is canceled and you are delayed over three hours you’re entitled to 250EUR cash.

So I approached the agent working the lounge and asked her about it in a really nice way. I wasn’t stern about it and didn’t demand anything, but rather just innocently asked if we’d be entitled to the EU cancellation/delay compensation under these circumstances. She said she’s almost certain we wouldn’t be, but promised to check with a supervisor.

20 minutes later she found me in the lounge and said “I checked with my supervisor and I was right, this wouldn’t apply. It only applies to flights of at least 3,500km.” She was really nice about it, but that’s a total lie, so I showed her the relevant guidelines that someone had Tweeted me in the meantime, and she seemed confused.

I asked if she had a pamphlet with passenger rights in these situations, and she laughed and said “I don’t think we’ve ever had anyone ask that in the first class lounge before, but let me see what I can do.”

In the meantime she said that if I go down to the help desk one level down they could maybe get me further information, so she escorted me down there. She said “you seem like a nice person I don’t have to tell you to be nice, but do be sure you tell them you’re coming from the first class lounge or else they might not listen to you.” Anyway, the agent gave me the pamphlet with EU guidelines and where to send an email, so I’m curious to see what happens there.

At 4:30PM we were picked up and driven to our plane once again, which was swapped to an Airbus A321 so that everyone could be accommodated.

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Plane to Salzburg

The crew was great. They were supposed to be done for the day but then got called to work the Salzburg turn, and despite that they were in great spirits. The 35 minute flight was pleasant, and upon arrival we waited at baggage claim… and waited… and waited… and waited.

Some bags were arriving, though oddly everyone that we saw on the original 1PM flight to Salzburg was still at baggage claim. And then bags stopped arriving.

It seems Lufthansa totally forgot to load the bags of all those passengers that were rebooked, even though they had four hours to do so. On top of all that they had a single agent working the lost baggage desk.

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Line to see baggage agent

I have a lot of understanding when things go wrong in the industry — weather, delays, etc., all happen even to the best airlines, but to simply forget about everyone’s bags is completely ridiculous, in my opinion.

Anyway, definitely a not so pleasant conclusion to an extremely pleasant journey. I’ll post an update about where the EU compensation claim leads, if anywhere. If anyone has advice on that front I’d love to hear it!

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Comments

  1. Hopefully you get some compensation, especially after they left your bags behind. Noting the lost baggage queue, have we seen you waiting in a line that long in a while? Not that I recall.

    “While in the bathtub I thought of the ridiculously generous EU compensation rules for delays and cancellations.” Funny imagery! 😉

  2. How did you get access to the FCT? It is only for departing F passengers on LH and Swiss and they specifically exclude arriving passengers. Just curious.

  3. Going to Berchtesgaden again? You can take the bus for only 5 Euros to Berchtesgaden from Salzburg. Only about an hour. I’m guessing you’d probably rent a car though. Try out the Sheraton Salzburg, we had an awesome room. However, no lounge access because I’m only gold.

  4. @Carl – Although officially not meant specifically for connections, in practice you can go to FCT if you have a connecting flight in C or F with LH/LX – as Lucky did – coming off an intercontinental and after entering Schengen/Germany. Most people just go to the FC lounges instead (in some ways actually nicer as you have a view of the tarmac).

  5. oh an by the way… you’d have to check whether the rules apply for your total trip length or only the delayed leg.
    LH is difficult to deal with when it comes to compensation… there are a bunch of law firms specialized in assistance for this (don’t want to drop any names here)

  6. My FIL had an issue with lufthansa getting EU compensation as well. Had flight from ARN-FRA-DEN in first class. There was a delay on the ARN-FRA flight so he would miss his connection. They told him the best they could do was reroute him through FRA(could have been munich)-ewr-den in business instead of first which got into denver like 12 hours late. They gave no problem giving the 600 euro delay compensation but did not want to give the forced downgrade compensation. After fighting with them through email for like a month and threatening to report them to the regulatory agencies they finally gave in.

  7. Sadly LH/FRA airport doesn’t have a smooth operation for these type of events. I was going AMS->FRA->DUB. Plane had “technical issues while on tarmac” in Fra at 955pm. Airport closes at 10pm (why so early?) so had to O/N in FRA. That’s all fine. But I could not get my luggage back until the next morning! And I had already cancelled the flight to DUB since I would miss that meeting and was going to take a train to another destination. Now I was sitting there with my luggage trapped at the Airport. Thanks LH/FRA. Another reason to NEVER check your luggage. I do my best avoiding LH.

  8. Ben,

    Might want to go do some shopping and check into the Montreal convention. If your flight was a leg of an international ticket, the Montreal convention should apply and you should be entitled to over $1000 in reimbursement. Save your receipts. You might have to fight with Lufthansa a little (I did), but if you reference the Montreal convention and they are aware you know your rights, you should get reimbursed. (I got a check for over $600 in expenses when my bags were lost for 9 days).

  9. Sounds more like a security issue than a technical issue. Deliberately vague announcement on the F100, remote parking stand, and maybe your bags were delayed for rescreening?

  10. @ mordy — Happy to hear it worked in the end. If you don’t mind me asking what kind of compensation did they give him for the downgrade?

  11. @ Brian — I think that’s a bit of a stretch. We were parked at a remote stand because that’s where our flight left from, as do about half of the regional flights out of Frankfurt.

  12. @Brian, in Europe remote stands are quite more common than in the US. It doesn’t mean nothing at all to be parked there.

  13. Should be a slam dunk for EU261, but I’d try and get some separate M&M miles by way of compensation for the bags. BTW if you have Amex Plat (UK card anyway, I don’t know about US) then you’d also be entitled to claim for food and clothes etc through the delay component of the travel insurance cover 😛

  14. Let me preface my email by stating that I work for a European airline. This entire passenger EU261 law is out of control. In no other industry are companies forced to pay out such large sums of compensation. Especially when most inner-European flights are had for less than the compensation amount. We airline personnel are so sick of hearing passengers demanding their rights and acting like spoiled little children.
    Sometimes things go wrong and aircraft are multi-million dollar technically advanced machines. I’m all for fair treatment of passengers, but the rules are ridiculous. In most cases the payout to passengers exceeds the price of the ticket. In the event of an air traffic control strike, or security personnel strike, or inclement weather, we are forced to pay for food and drinks. Adults are turned into children and complain for their 5 euro meal voucher. Then they complain because 5 euros doesn’t go very far in an airport. This all forced on to airlines for many circumstances outside our control. Really, if you are hungy or thirsty at the airport, then pull out your wallet and buy something. If there is a cancellation or delay due to something inside our control, then of course compensation should be paid out. But it is ridiculous to pay someone 300 euros when their ticket only cost 100 euros. The EU members of parliament are out of control and are out of touch with reality.
    Sorry for the rant

  15. Hi Ben,

    I’ve had similar situations with LH. Even when the compensation rules didn’t apply a really polite ‘complaint’ e-mail often did the trick. Unfortunately I got vouchers for their WorldShop in most cases (as a M&M member that is) but still nice compared to most other airlines.

    Enjoy Brussels and The Hotel this weekend btw. I was planning on visiting TravelMagic myself but… I have to travel for work 🙂

  16. @Marc
    Maybe LH should start adding a EU261 Fee to its fees and buy insurance with it
    Start a new industry and kill what is left of EU airlines

  17. @Marc – Maybe it’s time to find another job, one without all those annoying passengers (that have to follow all your and the airport’s ridiculous regulations as well).

    And maybe you should realize it’s not compensation we are getting for the ticketprice but for losing/wasting our time, and often costly reservations at the destination. And you know as well as I do that you hardly get any compensation on those short intra-european flights….

    Standardiizing compensation is a good thing since airlines have show time and time again they refuse to pay anything even when clearly at fault. Just like in this case were the first reaction is that there is no claim, when there clearly is one. Only if something is really outside the airlines control there is no compensation… But apparantly many airline personel feel everything is outside your control.

  18. I would be annoyed if they added 8 hours to my trip. You might not have a meeting/deadline to deal with. The NY guy might.

  19. @Marc ‘…passengers demanding their rights…’ Does this mean that you & your airline colleagues actively seek out passengers in situations that Ben found himself in & press their entitled compensation into their hands? Oh wait, even a BC passenger had to initiate the process in this instance so I’m guessing no-one was offered ‘their rights’ by the airline. Hmmm, if you re-read your comments before posting then I suspect the notion of irony is new to you. It reminds me of a comment, some years ago now, by a busline executive in the UK to the effect that the company’s services would run much more to time if their buses didn’t have to stop so frequently for passengers.

  20. Ben,

    You might want to try to get the 600 euro compensation per person(you& your dad). The reason for this is that you had a flight on a European Carrier to the EU. And used it to connect in FRA to get to your final destination Salzburg. So the claim is not the FRA-Salzburg leg, as what you mentioned, but should be Houston-Salzburg.

    In your case you arrived 4+ hours later at Salzburg, which you did, if I am correctly reading your post. Then the 600 euro compensation should be applicable in your situation. I hope this will work out for you!

    Good luck getting your money. In my country (Netherlands) a lot of carriers try to avoid paying these compensations, by saying it was beyond their control etc. Keep us posted on the reply you get from LH, so we can try to give you some more advice if needed!

  21. The Montreal Convention applies and LH will reimburse more than 1,000 EUR per person. All Ben and his dad have to do is to shop before the luggage arrives.

  22. LH is way overrated.
    Agree with New Yorker that LH is now slipping.
    Japanese guy must be on drugs.
    I suppose he thinks JL is the best or something.

  23. Lucky how did you get TWO seats on that ultra difficult LH flight out of Houston? Please share.

    @Marc That is the same lame excuse that RyanAirCrap used during the 2010 volcano eruption. Get yourself a job that makes your boss even richer !

  24. I agree with NYer that LH is now slipping too. Of course it is better than many US carriers but the last few LH First class and First Class Lounge/Terminal experiences weren’t that good. Meals on board in F weren’t never that good. I enjoy the nice new F seats/cabin though. I have to even admit that there were few AA J experiences that the FA were more attentive and call my last name than in LH F.

    Last time I was at FCT, my finger was accidentally cut by a razor badly and they said “we actually are not suppose to help you” ??? I was like.. I am bleeding here all over your FCT floor here…

  25. @ Gerard
    I think you may have misunderstood me, because I love my job and nowhere did I allude to the opposite. I also stated that when a delay is due to something within our control, that compensation should be paid out.

    The problem is, that in no other industry are companies liable for situations which are outside of their control. We are. We have to provide care and assistance to passengers in the event of ATC strikes, airport closures and any other event outside of our control. There are stipulated guidelines-such as providing a voucher for delays starting at 2 hours in the amount of approx. 5 or 6 euros in the event of an ATC Strike, or airport closure due to snow. We proactively distribute these vouchers to passengers, but for many passengers, this is not good enough. I question, if one is travelling on holiday or business, surely they are carrying money or credit cards in the event they are hungry. Why must we provide this in these circumstances?

    In the event of a technical delay, then surely it would be better that we repair the aircraft and put everyone on a later flight. If someone pays 100 euros for a ticket, why should the airline reimburse him 250.00 euros? I think it is reasonable to reimburse him a fixed amount not exceeding his ticket price. We are not the lottery.

    Contrary to your belief and statement, the minimum compensation threshold is 250 euros. Therefore, your statement “And you know as well as I do that you hardly get any compensation on those short intra-european flights” is incorrect. I respectfully correctly correct you.

    In closing, I would be happy to welcome you aboard one of our flights.

  26. Well. Das ist Wunderbar zu hoeren.

    But then again you are a very good son and good things come to young people like you.

    Hats off to you!!

  27. Ben,

    Try the Danish company Airhelp (you can find them on facebook). They help passengers with compensation claims and always publish their ‘success’ stories and frustrations on facebook.

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