LUFTHANSA - TERRIBLE CUSTOMER SERVICE
On 06.09.05 I traveled from Birmingham to Sofia via Frankfurt on flights 4907 and 3430. On arrival at Sofia airport, I and a number of other passengers waited to collect our luggage, only to discover 30 minutes later by observation alone that our baggage had not arrived. No announcement was made, passengers were not furnished with any information whatsoever, no Lufthansa representation was available anywhere in the airport, and more importantly no apology was proffered at any time.
I and others then queued for 3.5 hours to file missing luggage reports, without any trace of sympathy from airport staff , and passengers were not even offered of a glass of water during this time or the courtesy of any kind of explanation or public announcement. It should be noted that Lufthansa representatives were still nowhere to be found throughout this time. When I eventually managed to speak to the lost luggage company (Tourist Holdings) I was advised that my luggage had been routed via Vienna and would be arriving in Sofia at 11pm later that evening (06.09.05). The representative then stated that my luggage would be sent on by car to my booked accommodation in Sozopol, and would arrive by no later than 10pm the following day why the need for a 24 hour delay between the luggage arriving in Sofia to it making its final journey to my hotel was not explained. Is this the gold standard in customer service set and aspired to by Lufthansa?
As expected, 10pm on 07.09.05 came and went and all attempts to contact the Tourist Holdings office in Sofia failed. My luggage eventually arrived in Sozopol at 3.15am on 08.09.05! On speaking to the driver I was informed that he alone had delivered all the lost and missing Lufthansa luggage and had that day been driving all over Bulgaria delivering bags!! As a result of this extraordinarily shambolic series of events I rang an acquaintance of mine who is employed by Lufthansa to get his views, and who shockingly advised me that this often happens when a flight has reached its payload capacity, particularly affecting passengers like myself who are connecting on later flights, and whose baggage never even makes it onto the aircraft in question. This unwritten policy is a disgrace and deliberately misleads and affects passengers who are kept in the dark throughout.
Lost luggage aside, on 09.09.05 I received a call from my office back in the UK requesting my urgent return to the UK on 11.09.05, at an earlier time to which I had booked (flight 3435 Sofia to Munich at 1655). I attempted to call the Lufthansa office in Sofia at various times over the following two days to check if a change would be possible only for the phone to ring and ring without answer. Because of this I was forced to catch the 2330 night bus on 10.09.05 from Sozopol to Sofia in an attempt to get to Sofia airport early enough to speak to Lufthansa in person. At 7am the Lufthansa desk was unmanned and the security gate was closed, but a representative from Austrian Airlines, a Star Alliance partner who share the desk with Lufthansa was at her post. She checked flight details and confirmed that seats were available on the 1315 Sofia to Munich flight, but stated that as my ticket was non-transferable I would have to purchase another ticket, which I was willing to do. I was informed that Lufthansa staff were on their break and would be back at their desk at 10.30am; or as an alternative I could visit the first floor Lufthansa office which I duly did in an attempt to resolve. When I knocked on the door I was eventually greeted by a surly Elena Milenova(?) and explained my predicament. Without bothering to check any system or paperwork I was immediately informed that the flight was full and that there was no alternative to catching the later flight. I stated that Lufthansas Star Alliance partner at Austrian Airlines had checked the system just two minutes earlier and that seats appeared to be available. Elena responded by confirming (again without checking) that the Austrian Airlines system was different and that there were indeed no seats available. No offer of standby or any other solution was proffered; indeed I got the distinct impression that I was interrupting Miss Milenovas day and that she had much better things on which to be spending her time than assisting Lufthansa customers.
In any event I decided to wait around and visit the Lufthansa desk at 10.30am to ask Elena to check her computer and confirm the lack of seats. When I returned at this time the Lufthansa desk was still unmanned and the security gate was still closed. So, once again I spoke to the Austrian Airlines representative who confirmed that Elena had spoken to her in the interim, and stated that her system was indeed different and that the available seats she had identified earlier were not actually available to be purchased, just available to book as Lufthansa operate an overbooking policy on all its flights. I would add that whilst sitting in the viewing area at Sofia airport I observed the boarding of the 1315 Sofia to Munich flight and the number of passengers boarding the aircraft did not seem to equate at all to a completely full flight.
The above catalogue of errors clearly demonstrates that the level of service provided by Lufthansa falls woefully short of the minimum standard expected, and has raised serious doubts as to the commitment Lufthansa has to customer care and hence my confidence in the airline.
Incidentally, I would point out that as of 12.09.05 the contact page on their website does not work, the telephone number (01803803803) listed on their website does not exist, the telephone number listed on their Yellow Pages advertisement (08457737747) is incorrect, and the statement on their website to contact Lufthansa with Complaints and Compliments via email is apparently untrue, as when I spoke to a representative on 0870 8377747 she informed me that no email address actually exists to send comments, and that any feedback has to be submitted by letter to a PO Box address in Dublin! And finally, the country code and fax number listed for the European Customer Relations Centre in Ireland is also incorrect!! This is hardly a ringing endorsement to Lufthansas commitment to customer care.
Despite faxing their European Customer Relations Centre and Wolfgang Mayrhuber on four occasions since 12.09.05, Lufthansa have just chosen to ignore my complaint!