Travel Troubleshooter

Travel Troubleshooter: Traveler has bumpy ride, figuratively, on Lufthansa

Q: I experienced several mishaps when I was flying from Rome to Dallas on Lufthansa. I’m trying to get a refund for part of the flight, and I hope you can help me.

The segment between Frankfurt and Chicago was booked in premium economy. I went to the Lufthansa service counter at the Rome airport the day before my flight and inquired about an upgrade from premium economy to business class. The agent was most gracious and tried to find a special rate, but in the end could offer me only a fare difference upgrade of $1,800. I declined to upgrade.

The next morning, when I arrived to check my baggage, the Lufthansa agent at the baggage counter told me that I didn’t have a ticket. I had electronic boarding passes on my phone, but there was no ticket in the system.

My feeling is that the agent at the service counter had canceled my ticket when I asked about the upgrade. Or perhaps the Lufthansa system did that automatically. In any case, I didn’t have a ticket.

I went back to the service counter and asked about my ticket. The agent again was most gracious, but told me that I couldn’t have my original flights because there was no room available on the Frankfurt-to-Chicago leg.

Instead, she booked me from Frankfurt to Dallas on a flight that didn’t have premium economy. In addition, that booking didn’t have my lactose-free/gluten-free meal request. I accepted the booking so I could travel that same day.

I feel that I am due a partial refund, not only for the inconvenience of having a canceled ticket, but also for the inconvenience of having to fly economy. And the double inconvenience of not being able to eat any of the meals during the flights from Rome to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt to Dallas. Lufthansa is sending me form responses. Can you help?

Elizabeth Bentley, Dallas

A: Lufthansa should have reimbursed the difference between your premium economy and economy class seats. In reviewing the correspondence between you and the airline, it’s not clear why Lufthansa refused.

I can only speculate. Perhaps the airline’s own records suggest that you canceled the return flight, in which case you would have to pay the going rate for a return flight and would be owed nothing. It’s also possible that the airline meant to respond, but that the ball got dropped between Lufthansa and one of its codeshare partners, which may have been tasked with answering your complaint.

What I didn’t see when I reviewed your efforts was a brief, polite email to a Lufthansa customer-service executive. I list the names and numbers on my site: http://elliott.org/company-contacts/lufthansa-airlines/. I believe, in your situation, an appeal would have made a difference. Clearly, your case got stuck in the bureaucracy.

The paper trail you sent me was sketchy. In order to get more information, I needed to ask Lufthansa about your ticket, so I did. The airline acknowledged your complaint and promised to review it again.

A representative contacted you and admitted that the airline had absolutely no idea what happened to your reservation. How refreshing for an airline to admit its shortcomings like that.

Lufthansa promised to cut you a check for the fare difference between a premium economy and economy class ticket, and to compensate you for your special meal request that wasn’t delivered. You received a $400 check from the company – $300 in fare difference and $100 for the meal.

Email Christopher Elliott at chris@elliott.org.

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