It had to happen. I had to write this post. I’ve postponed it for months with the excuse of giving the airlines time to come through, but in the end enough is enough – and you deserve to know this.

Regular readers might remember my summer voyage to Texas or might recall some positive things I’ve said about Germany’s largest airline, Lufthansa.

Well I take it back.

To quickly fill in the details of my plight, I returned to Italy in late July and arrived sans baggage. I filed a report and waited two days to receive my bags. One arrived in tip-top shape with 100% of my belongings – the other was half empty.

The following day I called Lufthansa, who relinquished responsibility to my final airline carrier, AirOne. Per their online instructions I filed a report with my local Carabinieri. I called AirOne for three consecutive days – no answer. I sent them two faxes – no response.

Determined not to let AirOne’s inadequacies cause me $800 worth of increased stress, I sent a letter to Lufthansa. I described the situation and offered to send the police report. I explained how given their tight partnership – AirOne’s planes fly Lufthansa’s logo – and the fact I was refused by a Lufthansa representative the right to cellophane wrap my luggage, that I held them responsible.

They emailed me a response that said since I did not report the matter within seven days they could not help me.

Hopeful, I replied with, “Actually, I did file within seven days. Where do I send the documents?”

When I hadn’t heard a week later, I sent a follow-up.

I received another email stating it was not their responsibility since my final carrier was AirOne.

I replied asking them why they changed their reason for denying my claim, re-outlined my frustrations with Lufthansa and asked for a manager.

When I hadn’t heard nine days later, I sent a follow-up.

I received a response from a manager who supported the previous denial of my claim but made note of the fact that “I was unhappy with the Lufthansa representative who refused to wrap my baggage.”

At this point, I sent an email to writer and travel expert Christopher Elliot.

He contacted Lufthansa on my behalf and was sent a response within the day that said something along the lines of …

“Ms. Moore may have contacted her final carrier but we have no record. Her claim is denied because she did not register her complaint in a timely manner… (She) offered no documentation of her claims … We’d be happy to re-review her case again, however at this point it looks like she’s not being upfront with either of us.”

An airline company bucking responsibility and forgoing accountability is one thing, but personally attacking the character of a complaining customer is beyond poor service.

I emailed them about the personal attack – made to a noted journalist I very much respect and admire, no doubt – and called them on their offer to reopen my case.

I never heard back from them.

So what do you do? I’ve pledged not to fly either company again – although this will likely force me to travel to other airports for my international travel needs. I’d rather spend the money to get to Naples or Rome and fly with an airline who respects loyal customers and who accepts responsibility when $800 of personal belongings go missing under their watch.

Have you ever had a bad experience like this with an airline? If so, which company? Was it resolved? How? What would you do in this situation if you were me?

*** All of the red Lufthansa and AirOne links lead to other complaints about the two companies. ***

It’s Friday and that means a new recipe from La Buona Cucina Americana team … Thanks, Mary!

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Comments

  1. Sorry to hear of your misadventures.
    I have damaged suitcases every single time I fly and have to change airports! Yes Lufthansa and Alitalia. I don’t bother claiming the damage on the Italian side as it is so complicated but do it on my return to Luxembourg and am always refunded for the price of the luggage.
     
    I’m so glad you’ve had better experiences. I sent my letter to Lufthansa’s NYC office, but I’m not sure where the people who responded to me were from. Alitalia broke one of Peppe’s suitcases once and offered him a $75 voucher for his next Alitalia flight. Seeing how Alitalia is consistently one of the most expensive airlines for us, the voucher went unredeemed.

  2. uggggggg so frustrating!!! Unbelievable!!! I don’t know what other advice to offer — your idea of seeking the help of the travel expert to advocate on your behalf was excellent. The only other thing i can think of would be to write a similar letter to that column at Condé Nast Traveler (Ombudsman, I think it is??).

    I’m really sorry that you had such an awful experience and that the effort to try to get it resolved has been even worse! Hang in there!
     
    Thanks for the info, Kim. And thanks for the pity. 🙂 It has really been disheartening.

  3. As soon as I started reading I was thinking this sounded like a case for Christopher Elliot! I can’t believe what they said to both you and him! Did you write him back and follow up about them lying? What jerks! Well I know who I won’t be flying in the future. I usually use British Airways when I go home and have never encountered any problems.
     
    I’ve flown BA, too and always been happy with them. That will be an option for me. I can fly RyainAir to London, then London directly to Houston. Less stops, actually! I did write Elliot back and tell him that wasn’t true (because how embarrassing for me that they said that!) He said my best option was to take AirOne to small claims court. 🙁

  4. I can see if they just denied your claim (not really, but…), but all the avoidance tactics and not getting back to you? That’s just inexcusable. Boo.
     
    It is. I was most appalled at them questioning my honesty when I was 100% upfront with them the entire time. Especially, questioning my ethics – not to me – but to someone who I highly respect. It was humiliating!

  5. What a total nightmare! Surely there is an ombudsman who could help you. If you were old, like me, and a member of AARP (which would of course means that you couldn’t live in Italy, lol), you could get THEM to go to bat for you. Surely there is something along those lines in Italy…isn’t there?
     
    I’m not sure, Shelly. I’m still looking/hoping. It hurts my heart to think of $800 worth of stuff just … gone!

  6. i’m thinking backpack in the overhead bin.

    but what to do when that’s just not an option?!? i find customer service in general is going down hill.
     
    I usually prefer to travel with a carry on, but when I am coming back from the states it is next to impossible. I buy food and cosmetics I can’t find here in Italy. It is like they won’t let you take them on board, but they won’t guarantee they arrive, either.

  7. This is ridiculous. Someone owes you some money and an apology.

    I agree that customer service has gone downhill over the years. I get that the staff is stressed (less flights, more over bookings etc.) but come on.
     
    I know. Thanks for your sympathy. And you are right. It is ridiculous!

  8. My $480 suitcase got damaged by Lufthansa on Jan/2008 and until now Nov/2008 I still keep sending them Emails for 10000000000 times and they did not replace or paid for it yet. Lufthansa customer relation’s office is locatad in N.Y City and There are 2 shit women which were handling my case(A. Russo and Linda Rullo). After 10 months they told me sent my broken suitcase to them for repair, replace or assessment, and I send it to them. They told me they are ready to pay but they are paying for only %20 of the value of my suitcase and I told them, (NO) and I asked them to return my broken suitcase and now they tell me they lost my suitcase in their repair shop and still they dont want to pay. I would love to F. with this people and this company legally. If any body knows how to do it please email me at mail5500@hotmail.com and if any body wants to join me please also email me. Thank you for reading.
     
    Unbelievable. Well, actually since we are talking about Lufthansa it IS believable! It is also ridiculous! I had sent my complaints to the NYC office, as well. Please let me know if things change.
     

  9. Lufthansa starts to be the very low level air company. This summer LUFTHANSA completly damage my laguage and the other one they lost. I paid 150 euros overweight for lagguage that I never recieve and they don’t want to give me money back for it. This is realy shame how low this company fall down!!!!!!!
     
    That is pitiful. I am sorry to hear that. My suggestion is to not stop contacting them. Keep sending emails. Document everything. Please let us know if things change and good luck.
     

  10. I had soooo many problems contacting AirOne regarding a refund they owe me. I actually received the refund, but it was $140.00 short of what they owe me. No one will answer at the refund office and I sent two emails which also received no response. Their customer service is awful! I would never fly AirOne again!
     
    You are right, they are awful. I am so happy they responded to you in the first place and you got something. They never responded to me. I won’t fly AirOne, either. So, this trip, I am going on RyainAir to London, then flying to the US from there. The things we do …
     

  11. I find that Lufthansa flight crews are OK, but in my experience their airport staff and customer relations staff are just plain stubborn and rude.
     
    I agree. I have always had good experiences with their flight crews. I do have an update, however about my experiences with them. Will post that soon …
     

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