I actually wrote this a couple of years ago, but never got round to posting it on the site.
As you've probably gathered, I have done my fair share of flying around Europe. Some people say that flying is akin to be herded like cattle. I have
to disagree - herders can't scr*w their cattle for money at every opportunity.
LUFTHANSA CANCELLED ROUTE
I had return flights already booked Frankfurt International to London Stanstead when a friend of mine thought it would be nice to join us in London
for the weekend. I told him the flight numbers and dates for him to book online. He emailed me to say Lufthansa don't have any flights to Stanstead on
that date. After much confusion I contacted Lufthansa who said they'd cancelled the entire route and no, I wouldn't be flying that day.
Instead, they offered me an internal flight to Cologne, a short changeover and then an onward flight to Heathrow (not Stanstead) and then they would
pay for a taxi to Stanstead. What should be a 1 hour flight would become a 5 or 6 hour pain. I asked could they just refund me the ticket which would
actually be cheaper than the taxi.
Of course they can't refund the ticket - it's a "no changes" "no cancellations" ticket. I pointed out that was if *I* wanted to change the ticket, not
if they arbitrarily opted to cancel the entire route.
I don't want to spend 6 hours travelling a one hour route.
Result: No refunds, had to buy tickets on a different airline for the original direct flight.
LUFTHANSA PILOTS STRIKE #1
Back in 2001 the Lufthansa pilots (during pay negotiations) threatened to strike every Thursday for four weeks. Guess who already had flights booked
with Lufthansa on those days? Yes, muggins here.
On the first of these Thursdays, the pilots carried out their threat and sure enough the airport was absolute chaos, I've never seen anything like it. I
managed to get the last seat into Heathrow (instead of Stanstead). This results in an extra fee from the hire car company (because I need to return the
car back to Stanstead for my next outbound flight).
Requested that Lufthansa refunded the 'one way hire fee', of course their reply "it's circumstances beyond our control so no refund". (Unlike when
they chose to cancel the route, which was of course entirely within their control).
Result: No refund. Spent an extra two hours negotiating the London orbital getting home, and got shafted by the hire car company for a one way hire.
LUFTHANSA PILOTS STRIKE #2
The following week, strikes were still threatened. I rang Lufthansa on the Wednesday to see if I could move the flight a day forward 'just in case'.
"Absolutely not, it's a no refunds, no changes ticket".
I pointed out that if the strike goes ahead, we're all up the creek without a paddle. Of course they didn't know if it would go ahead until 18:00 that
evening, but the last flight out for me that day was 17:30, so it would be too late for me to wait until the strike was announced. Until the strike
was confirmed they wouldn't change the ticket.
I pointed out they'd have umpteen thousand Liverpool Football fans trying to get home from the UEFA tie in Dortmund right in the middle of this
strike and I'd rather not be there. Still no joy.
Result: No refund, bought another ticket on a different airline. Strike went ahead as planned (what a surprise).
AER LINGUS LOSE MY TICKET
I was flying regularly Germany to Dublin, and sometimes Stanstead in between. Because I was rarely at my credit card address I would always ask to collect
the tickets from their desk rather than them post them to me.
On one occassion, having made the usual request to collect the tickets, and having been assurred by the sales girl that they would be left for me,
I arrive at the airport only to find no tickets. I end up talking to this Stupid Obnoxious Guy and Customer Services (we'll call him SG) and the
general flavour of the conversation goes like this....
SG: "We charge 50 Euros to replace lost tickets"
ME: "I didn't lose the ticket, I've never had the ticket, it should be here waiting for me"
SG: "Well, it will be 50 Euros"
ME: "But I never had the ticket, please check the computer, it should say that I asked for it to be left here"
SG: "Well, it will be 50 Euros. The only way you can fly is if you pay 50 Euros"
ME: "But the whole return flight only cost 140 Euros, how can it be 50 Euros for a 'replacement' piece of paper"
SG: "Well, it will be 50 Euros"
On realising the folly of trying to converse with this chap with anything other than monosyllabic words, I gave up. On handing him my credit card
to pay the 50 Euros, I ask who I should talk to see about getting my 50 Euros back. Of course, I'm directed to Customer Services at Dublin arrivals
which doesn't bloody exist! Customer Services at Dublin departures say I should ask for it back from Frankfurt departures customer services, to whom I
just paid the bloody money.
I think Aer Lingus Customer Services Reps are all inter-related.
As far as cattle herding goes these have to be worst. I shouldn't really complain though, Ryan Air don't pretend to be a first class airline, they
are a budget operator and are quite clear about saying so.
On arrival at Dublin airport I realise I've got confused over my tickets and am actually almost three hours early. I see there is an earlier flight
currently checking in and wander over to customer services to see if there is any chance of getting on it instead.
I expect to pay an administration fee, but am totally gobsmacked by the following:
ME: "Excuse me, I've got a ticket on the 18:30, any chance of getting on the earlier 16:00?"
CS: "Let me see your ticket and I'll take a look".... "Ah yes, there will be a fee for the change, it's 280 Euros"
ME: "But I only paid 13 Euros for the 18:30 flight, how come the 16:00 is so much, is it the last seat or something?"
CS: "No, not at all, the 16:00 is half empty, in fact your 18:30 flight is actually overbooked, there is a risk we'll have to offload someone"
ME: "Well wouldn't it make sense, be helpfull to you *and* me, if I took the earlier flight".
CS: "Excellent idea, I can do that for you right now, that will be 280 Euros".
I stand there shocked, in total amazement, almost in awe of this ridiculuous stupidity and head for the bar instead.
Next time you're at an airport and you see police with guns, don't for one moment think it's about security or terrorism. It's to protect the
dimwits in customer services from people like you and I who are being bent over double in order to be right royally shafted by these thieving, scamming
organisation called 'airlines'.
It's fair to say, nowadays I do anything in my power to avoid Lufthansa and Aer Lingus, even if I have to pay more for an alternative airline.
(Lufthansa and Aer Lingus take note - last year I took over 100 flights in a single year - and you got none of it).
With Ryan Air, to be honest it wasn't their fault - it was after all me who got there early. I tend not to fly with them too much anyway as I get
fed up with all the cow sh*t on my boots.