Two weeks ago I was flying from Frankfurt to Salzburg on Lufthansa, and due to a mechanical problem the flight was canceled and we were rebooked on the next flight which was more than four hours later.
Stuff like this happens and while it’s frustrating, ordinarily I wouldn’t complain. Especially since it just meant spending a few extra hours in the Lufthansa First Class Lounge. That being said, the EU has some of the most generous laws for compensation when it comes to flight delays and cancelations, specifically under regulation EC 261/2004. 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.
However, when I mentioned this to the agents in the First Class Lounge they more or less laughed at me and denied such a policy existed, first stating it was only for longhaul flights and then stating it wouldn’t apply since this was a mechanical.
Look, I think the EU’s laws are actually too consumer friendly in this regard, but at the same time I don’t like being lied to, and it’s clear that airport agents are trained to pretend this regulation doesn’t exist. And for that matter I wanted to find out the real truth, so I could share the results here.
A little over a week ago I sent a very short email to Lufthansa explaining what happened and referencing EC 261/2004. Today I received the following response from Lufthansa:
Thank you for your correspondence and for choosing Lufthansa for your travel needs. We are sorry to hear that the Lufthansa flight LH1104 on September 17 from Frankfurt to Salzburg had cancelled unexpectedly due to technical reasons. It is our aim to provide a worry-free travel experience for all our passengers and like you, we are disappointed when this goal is not achieved.
We know that your time is valuable and for this reason Lufthansa continuously strives to maintain the superior operational performance you deserve. Despite our best efforts, many factors beyond our control may impact flight operations and while we can certainly understand your frustration, we appreciate your understanding that all decisions are made with the safety of our passengers and crew first and foremost.
However, we hope for your understanding that, where flight irregularities are caused by certain circumstances, it can be difficult to predict the extent of the disruption and regret the consequent problems encountered by our passengers. When unexpected flight irregularities do occur, we expect our staff to assist all passengers and to do everything in their power to hold inconvenience to a minimum. In these instances, passengers are rebooked to their final destination at the earliest opportunity, subject to availability of seats. According to the history of your reservation, our staff had rebooked you and your father with Lufthansa flight LH1106 later that day to Salzburg. On behalf of Lufthansa, we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and the disruption to your travel plans as we realize you arrived later than anticipated.
We also realize that it is particularly disturbing to find that a carefully planned trip is disrupted by the irregularity of our flight and would like to be of assistance to you. In compliance with EU Regulation EC 261/2004, we will be sending you and your father each a check for USD331 (EUR250) to your home in Tampa which should arrive within the next three weeks.
Mr. Schlappig, we value your patronage and ask for you to view this experience as an exception to our performance and assure you and your father that we will strive to ensure that future flights with us will again meet your expectations. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
So I’m actually extremely pleasantly surprised with the outcome. I figured that if I actually wanted a shot at the compensation I’d have to enlist the help of a legal service that specializes in this stuff (which I wasn’t about to do), but sure enough a simple email did the trick.