Warning this is a rant post, but also an experience I wish that will never happen to you.
This summer, my family decided to travel to San Francisco and visit our relatives. We had bought our tickets through a travel agency, as I feel it’s always better just in case if something happens. I bought my tickets from Connections, which is a pretty reputable travel agency. But what happened to me that day is something I never would have imagined. It just went from bad to worst, and then just when I thought the nightmare was over, it just made lose it.
31st August 2016
It was finally time for me to travel and go on holiday. Everyone was super excited and stressed out, but still in high spirits.
We walked to the train station, because we have a train that goes straight to the airport.
First bad surprise, our train was late, but we thought that’s ok since we left home at 6h30 and our flight is a 13h55 so we should have time.
Our train finally arrived 10 minutes later and we took our seat and was ready to relax. Just 2 stops after leaving, the train controller was telling everyone that the train will exceptionally NOT go to the airport. So we left the train and waited for another connection at gare central. We waited a couple of minutes and a new train was there. We boarded it and in 20 minutes we should arrive to the airport. It was 7h55 so we thought by 8h30 we would be there.
And baam, we were stuck in the train for 2 hours and we only arrived at the airport around 9h30!!!
I googled it and found out there was a problems with the signalization lights going to the airport.
Arriving at the airport, we then need to go to security checks. Since the bombings in March Belgium has really upped the security of the airport. I think this is a good thing, but people who were stuck in the train trying to reach their plane on time can be very stressed because of this.
We were a bit on edge now but we still had time to get our plane. Thank god.
We got to the counter to check it and the people serving us was very relax, he was talking to his colleagues while serving us. So he took his time checking us in. I was a bit annoyed since he wasn’t too professional but oh well.
Since the airport changed the they do things, I just wanted to get to my gate asap, as I was thinking there might be even more security checks later on and we still needed to find out way.
I was right, there was still a long line to get through security and a very ling way to get to our gate.
By 10h30, we arrived to our gate and was waiting for boarding time which was around 11h00. Boarding time was a bit delayed and we started boarding around 20 minutes later. We sat to our seat and got comfy thinking in 20-30 minutes we would be airborne… and no. The captain then informed us that there was an issue at the airport of Frankfurt and we could not fly yet. Time passed and people were getting impatient. It was now 12h30 and the captain spoke again saying they still don’t know when we could fly. So they advised that for people who only needed to go to Frankfurt can get off the plane and be reimbursed. For the others, it’s the waiting game… it was now 13h and still nothing. I was getting very worried as my connection was a 13h55 and we were still in Brussels.
Since I still had my internet connection, I checked the news to see what was going on and found that terminal 1 from Frankfurt was closed due to a bomb threat.
The captain didn’t mention this but now I knew what was going on. The whole terminal was closed because one woman got through security and they were suspecting her of having some bomb equipment…
We finally got the ok to fly to Frankfurt but was now 13h55. After 35 minutes we reached the airport. The captain mentioned they didn’t have any information for connecting flight so we had to check with the people there.
We run out of the plane and there were 2 stewards there waiting with their tablets. I first checked the board and could not see our flight anymore. I went to ask where can I find the plane that goes to San Francisco and I was told it left already. They had advise us to take a right and get new tickets.
We took a right and there was ni indication where to go and asked another person and they told us we needed to exit and go up and find the Lufthansa counter.
We exited the transfer zone and was the entrance of the airport. Let me just tell you that Frankfurt is one of Lufthansa Hub so of course it’s full of Lufthansa desks. I asked for another person when I should go and they just told us to line up. But when I saw the line it started from one end of the airport until the very back.
That couldn’t be right so I looked for a information booth and explained my situation. They lady was quite lost and didn’t know how to help me. She advise to maybe try with the connecting company since there were less people and then check with Lufthansa. So that’s what I did.
We queued up to United airways and started talking to the people in front of us.
It was a family flying back to San Francisco. They told us there were in the plane flying to San Francisco at 9h00 that morning but they were told to they were told to board off and they explained it was total chaos in the airport. No one knew what they were supposed to go and do. But eventually they were given tickets and they would be flying back a 16h45. I was jealous, not gonna lie.
So after 30 minutes, it was our turn and we explained our situation but unfortunately they could not help us because Lufthansa emitted our tickets.
Even though we were suppose to fly with them now they could not change our tickets.
My thought at that point was ” what’s the point in airlines being in alliances when in the end they can’t even find solutions like this. Isn’t that the whole point of alliances?”.
So we left that counter feeling defeated and my dad found out that there is actually 2 types of queues at Lufthansa, one for European flights and the other for international flights. The one of the ground floor was the European one and the one on the first floor for international flights.
We found this information out by talking to other travelers. People working at Lufthansa couldn’t even provide this information. How is this reassuring?!?
Getting new tickets
It was now after 4Pm and we finally got some sort of answers so we went up the first floor and queued. Again the queue was so long it almost took the whole first floor. At around 5pm, it was now our turn to get in. I honestly thought this was the queue to get to the counter but it wasn’t.
Instead there was this Japanese man who was there to do a bit of triage and give you a number.
I knew he was Japanese because he name was something like eikichi or yoichi. I explained to him our situation and his first reply was ” You should go to United to get your tickets rebooked!” I told him we were there and they told us only Lufthansa can emit our tickets.
The he asked for our flight details and he told me why didn’t we go to our gate when we had over 1 hour to reach the get! I was like “Excuse me?!?! How is that possible? My connecting flight was a 13h55 and my plane left Brussels at that time”. How would I have managed. He was looking at his tablet and saying see you had 1 hour. Lufthansa apparently only take responsibility if the passenger have less than 45 minutes. Again I was telling him how was I supposed to reach the gate if I’m not even in that country yet?!?! I told him that as soon as we got off the plane,we asked the steward about our connection and he told us the plane had left so we needed new tickets. But still he didn’t want to believe me, or was not understanding the situation.
He was annoying the hell out of me and kept on saying ” question” with his finger up what is my flight, why didn’t I go to my gate. He English was so bad , I really felt like talking to a wall. Then I think he finally realized the situation and disappeared. He came back a couple of minutes later and gave us our number, which was 789, something like that. When I checked the board, they were serving 450…
We looked for a place to sit and then I talked to the nice lady next to me. I asked her how long has she been waiting, and she told me she was there since 12h, she was still waiting her turn. Her number was around 480. It was now 17h00 and I was looking at the board, damn if only United could have helped us we would be boarding on that last plane to San Francisco…
Other ladies came up and we all started to share our stories. One of them was also on board ready for lift off, and they were told to board off. None of them were properly explained about the situation. They also informed me that there was no chance to fly to the US tonight, it would all be for tomorrow.
I was seriously bummed at this time, as I was going to lose a day of holiday when I only had 10 days. This airport was not organized at all. They couldn’t even provide the proper information to anyone.
Rumors even had it that planes were leaving empty, even though all the passengers were there. We were also worried about our luggage, what if everything got mixed up by all this!?!
I had checked the news earlier to better understand what had happened in the airport. The story goes that one woman slipped through security and the airport was on lock down to find this single person. She was traveling to the States which is why they had people board of the plane to find her. The person was found a but before 12h. But the damage was now done. On the news they mentioned that this has cause some small delays, but that was a lie.
I do find it strange that they mention there was a bomb threat but there was NO ADDITIONAL SECURITY in the airport. Anyone could still come in and out of the airport.
I saw so many people frustrated, swearing, crying and sleeping in the airport. It was total chaos. Lufthansa definitely did not take charge or handled the situation well since none of their workers knew what to say and how to better handle the passenger.
We were there waiting our turn and numbers barely changed. It was taking an eternity to serve people. Then by some strange luck, someone helped us and we got served before our time.
It at least took 30 minutes to get our tickets. We were informed that all direct flights were complete so we needed to connect several times. Since we were flying over the next day, they gave us a hotel room and taxi expenses.
My new flight route was now :
Frankfurt >Hamburg > Newark > San Francisco
We had no other choice so we said ok. We thought that everything was in order, so we left the airport a bit before 19h. When we left the rebooking area, the queue was still quite long and people were really at their last end. When I checked the board, they were now serving people with number 490. If we didn’t have that lucky encounter, I think we would have been served the next day.
September 1st 2016
Our new flight was now at 8h00 so we left our hotel at 5h30 and went to the airport.
The airport looked like a ghost town, there was no one. It was completely the opposite of yesterday.
We went through security and waited at out gate. Everything went smoothly and we arrived in Hamburg but we only had a hour lay over and we still needed to get out tickets.
We arrived at out gate and we only had 20 minutes left but they issued our tickets on time and we were off to Newark.
At Newark, since we arrived in the States, we had to recheck our luggage and a new problem arose. The luggage man scanned our luggage tab and couldn’t read it. We went to the empty counter for help, but then told us to queue.
Again there was no one there, just us, they asked us to go through the labyrinth of rope because they can serve us.
This time it was a Chinese lady called Jenny who assisted us and told us we didn’t have a ticket to go to San Francisco. My first reaction was, how is that possible when I right in front of you?!?
I showed her our tickets, which clearly indicated our name and seating arrangement and she clearly told us our tickets were not valid. The rage was coming up again. My dad was going round in circles. I was trying to calm him down telling that wouldn’t help. I tried to explain the situation to the person serving us but she didn’t want to listen. She called someone and then she finally reissued our tickets. She then told us that on their system we were a no show so they canceled our tickets. I told them how is that possible when Lufthansa gave us new tickets. Of course we were a no show for our original flight because of the problem at Frankfurt, she was unaware of the bomb threat and she really made us feel we were to blame.
To explain the situation, she told us that Lufthansa had indeed rebooked our tickets, but never confirmed it. That’s why our tickets were gone.
Anyway as soon as I got my tickets, I left that area and we looked for our gate. There was so many security checks. Again we had to ask several people just to get to the right place but we finally got there are waited.
Finally at 17h30, we arrived in Sam Francisco! I was so beat I could barely keep my eyes open but I was glad I got there.
Going back home
My trip was coming to an end so 2 days before leaving I had sent an email to my travel agency confirming my flight back.
I was checking my emails everyday and did not see a reply so I thought everything was ok.
On the day I was about to leave, after finishing packing, I checked my emails and for some reason my spam inbox and I found this.
If you don’t understand French it says that because we never took our flight from Newark, our flight back from San Francisco to London was cancelled.
It was 1h30 in the morning and I couldn’t believe what was going on I was reading it over and over again just to make sure I was reading it properly then I told my mom. I was completely stressed out, all my limbs were shaking, my stomach was going crazy, I couldn’t think straight anymore.
I woke up my uncle and asked for his help, I asked him if he could call the airline because I couldn’t I was a wreck.
It was 1h45 in the morning and we started to look for the customer service of United since on the email it mentioned that we didn’t take the Newark flight, even though we were.
I was thinking this was all the doing of that Jenny who reissued our tickets. She canceled our tickets.
After a couple of minutes, we were able to reach United and they explained that only Lufthansa could help us, even though it was their company that canceled our flight… tsk
So then we looked up the customer service number of Lufthansa and found it was reachable from 00h00 to 24h00. We called once and waited 10 minutes, again 20 nothing, then again 10 nothing.
So I sent an email to Belgium to my travel agency and they replied a hour before. They tried to contact the airlines but they apparently couldn’t do anything else since the airline took over so it was really up to me to figure out a way to contact Lufthansa. I then looked up for the customer service in Belgium and found a German number.
I tried to roam but my network wasn’t going through. By now it was 3h00 and my uncle was finally able to call Germany and reach Lufthansa’s customer service. Everything was in German so we selected a random number and finally got to someone. I explained the whole story and told me to calk again and select 4 which I did but once I reached the person, the call cut. I tried again and explained the situation and I was sure I selected 4 but I was told I was wrong. I called again and finally had someone who can help me, but he was so unfriendly.
I told him that for some reason my flight was canceled and he first told me that my flight from London to Brussels was confirmed. But I said I’m in San Francisco right now, how am I supposed to get to London?!?
I was trying to explain the situation but he cut me abruptly and put me on hold. He did this 2 times because there were so many remarks on our file.
After a couple of minutes, he finally confirmed our flight from San Francisco to London was reissued. He told me he would send me a confirmation email and I gave him my email, but he didn’t even reconfirm my email to be sure.
By this time it was 3h45 and I was completely dead, I was happy this was fixed but still dubious because I did not get the email.
I went to bed and couldn’t not sleep because I was still waiting for that email. I was still on edge and my aunt then decided to call the customer service of Lufthansa and she got through immediately. She told us that the operator called Amber confirmed our flight back. It was such a huge relief. I was able to breathe again but then thinking what if they don’t find it when I arrived at the airport.
Thankfully at the airport, everything went well. But because our original tickets were gone, I couldn’t sit with my family anymore so we were given separate seats. Nevertheless, after all this madness, we got home to Belgium without anymore big problems.
I will never fly with Lufthansa ever again!!!
This was the first time I ever had this much bad look from beginning to end. Customer service from Lufthansa and Frankfurt airport basically is crap, non existent.
In summary here are the reasons why:
•Frankfurt airport was so disorganized not even the workers knew what was going on
• clearly airport security is not a big thing since even after that supposed bomb treat there was no additional security
• for people facing jobs, they don’t have the nicest people and have much empathy for the travelers. Not customer friendly at all
• the decision to recheck all passengers and making them wait, even though the planes were there was such a bad decision in so many ways. Loss of money, bad customer service, lost of trust
• cancelling tickets when the issue was not from the traveler was the biggest let down
• making the passenger feel it’s their fault for not being able to reach their connection is definitely not ok in my books
• saying on their website that they are available 24/7 is a blatant lie
• Lufthansa is part of Star Alliance, just like United. If United could have reissued our tickets, I could have still left on 31st August. So what is the point of this alliance if you can even help passenger when there are special situations like that day?
I may have been very unlucky because I was served with unqualified people, making mistakes one after the other but having all these issues on a single trip is too much.
I really did not want all of this stress, losing a day of holiday because of bad decision and failing security checks at apparently one of the busiest airport in Europe. This really makes me feel uneasy and I definitely do not ever want to go through Frankfurt or fly with Lufthansa.
I already used the services of Air Canada and Brussels Airlines and I always found their services to be quite good. Air Canada being one of my favorites. To think that Lufthansa is associated to them, I’m really fearing for the quality of Star Alliance.
I work for customer service and the service I received from Lufthansa is definitely not what I expected and what I would want to give.
So guys when traveling, please don’t even consider flying with Lufthansa even if the tickets are cheap, because if you get into trouble, they won’t be that helpful.
Rant over, but I will continue sharing this bad experience to everyone I know and anyone who wants to hear and know more.
Never fly with Lufthansa!!!!!