This week’s Compensation Clinic is about a flight segment from Frankfurt to Bangkok operated by Lufthansa that got canceled a year ago and the airline hasn’t responded to the complaint file ever since.
Lufthansa has a ton of problems these days and they didn’t just start yesterday. Lots of strikes, labour disputes, penny-pinching, service downgrades, Covid, refund problems, and shoddy IT infrastructure… the list goes on and on.
My situation occurred when the last segment of my ANA Round the World ticket that was operated by Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Bangkok suddenly got canceled, and I wasn’t informed by either airline about this. Lufthansa just changed my reservation to another date, and that was it – silence. I only learned about this when I checked the reservation again to look for a seat change a few days prior to departure.
Last September, travelers still had to deal with the Thailand Pass and the Quarantine Hotel in Thailand. Naturally, Lufthansa just cancelling the flight which was totally a business decision and not a regulatory requirement, threw this entire plan and my preparation into limbo. My hotel didn’t have space on the alternate dates booked by Lufthansa. I eventually pleaded with ANA to change my flight to Phuket instead, where I was able to get a hotel room under the Sandbox scheme. Thankfully they were willing to bend the rules a bit and change the reservation as Lufthansa canceled the flight.
All the changes required me to stay in Germany several more days, and I incurred additional costs which I requested Lufthansa to pay. The main cost that I incurred was an additional 254 Euro for a rental car from Sixt. I opened the complaint file the same week, and since then, there was silence.
I once again gave them a nudge in July of this year but to no avail, after this, I opened a case with the U.S. Department of Transportation against Lufthansa based on the routing of the ticket.
The DOT answered within a week and forwarded the case to Lufthansa for further processing. Lufthansa did answer two weeks later but refused the compensation:
Thank you for your correspondence forwarded by the Department of Transportation. We appreciate the opportunity to respond.
We regret that you were not informed of a schedule change on your return trip from Los Angeles to Bangkok via Frankfurt. A review of your reservation indicates that your flights were ticketed through All Nippon Airways. On August 25, 2021, flight LH772 from Frankfurt to Bangkok incurred a schedule change and an automatic notice was sent to the ticketing carrier immediately, as they were still in control of the reservation. The agreement in force among travel agencies, consolidators, Lufthansa, other Star Alliance carriers is that the office which books a passenger reservation is responsible for correctly booking, ticketing the reservation, advising the customer of any changes to the itinerary, including reissue of the ticket. We apologize that on this occasion you were not informed of any changes to your booking, until you checked your reservation three days before the flight. We can only imagine your disappointment and frustration under the circumstances. We are unable to comment on why you were not informed of the changes to your itinerary.
In light of good customer service, we try to avoid sending passengers to another airline. In this particular case, however, we respectfully refer you to All Nippon Airways as the ticketing carrier of the affected flight, who will be solely responsible for providing information about your ticket, the handling and/or compensation. Regretfully, EC261/2004 compensation does not apply in this case, as the affected flight was cancelled more than 14 days prior to departure.
We value your patronage and hope that you will afford us the opportunity to restore your confidence in our services.
The content of this email is complete hogwash. Lufthansa never informed me that the flight was cancelled and neither did ANA. All my information on the reservation was current and in fact, I flew the previous segment SFO-FRA on Lufthansa just 10 days prior so if something was out of sync they could have told me right then as well.
I responded that I’m not accepting that answer and that I will hand over the case to mediation or a personal attorney within 10 days if no amicable solution is found.
Lufthansa took another week to respond and this time the tune was much different:
Thank you for your continued correspondence and for giving us the opportunity to once again review your claim.
We regret the inconvenience you experienced and we appreciate your perspective in this matter. The impression you received is certainly disappointing to us. We are very sorry that your flight from Frankfurt to Bangkok on was cancelled, and that you were not informed by the ticketing carrier until a few days prior to travel. We agree: This should not happen. We sincerely apologize that you had to have this experience.
As a gesture of good will, will issue you a payment of USD $250.00, and add 6,000 miles to your Miles and More account.
In an effort to ensure you receive our payment we can transfer the funds via wire payment to your bank account.
We take data protection very seriously. Rest assured that any personal information will be secured and will not be disclosed to other parties. Lufthansa strictly follows data privacy. Disclosure and usage of passengers’ information outside is prohibited. We can assure you that your personal data are secured and safe with us. We are used to processing payments via bank transfer as we do so in many other countries for all passengers. Once we receive the above requested information, the funds should appear in your account within 10 days.
It is our hope that you will continue to place your trust in Lufthansa despite this experience, and that we will have the privilege of welcoming you on board again soon.
Not sure why Lufthansa first tries to shed themselves of their responsibility for their own flight cancellations when dealing with a Miles&More Senator member but eventually they did agree to basically a 250 Euro/US$ payment and to credit me an additional 6000 Miles&More miles.
Lufthansa tried to get away with this cancellation without paying any compensation but that’s not going to fly with me. In the end, I’m happy with this solution.
For the small difference of the extra hotel night in Frankfurt I’m not handing this over for legal consultation, which would probably take many more months to resolve. While a lawyer could certainly try to get another 600 Euro EC261 compensation it might be complicated because then we’d probably have to sue both ANA and Lufthansa to have a court decide who is at fault for not notifying the passenger.
The 250 Euro cash compensation takes care of the vast majority of my expenses incurred, and the miles somewhat even out the rest. It’s good that I didn’t accept their initial bogus response in which they didn’t offer anything and I urge anyone to always push for compensation when the airline messed things up. In Germany I could have given the case to the SOP Ombudsman or a personal attorney but that’s my last resort as I prefer to have these things off the table quickly. It already took way too long.