Shortly before Christmas in 2017, I was flying from the US to Germany. I had a layover in London and my connecting flight would be on a Lufthansa flight from London to Munich. As it is only a very short flight, I booked an Economy Class seat.
I arrived early at the airport to check in and drop my checked bag. All my valuable items are in my carry-on as I know exactly how airlines treat your checked bags. They throw it around, in the plane, off the plane, and onto the carts to bring it to baggage claim. I have witnessed that too many times from the plane window myself. After I was checked in, I had to wait for the security lines actually to open, as they were still closed. After security screening, I spend some time in a lounge and then headed to the gate for my flight to Munich.
The line was long and I was one of the first one to board in Economy Class. Once I reached the counter, the agent scanned my boarding pass and then denied access to the plane because I was only allowed one carry-on plus one personal item. I had a backpack with my camera gear and a small roller laptop bag. I travel with the same exact configuration all year long and I know either one would fit under the seat in front of me for a fact.
But the agent refused to let me bring my bags aboard even tho I was within the limits. He demanded that I gate check one of the items. I told them that both of them had my expensive gear inside. One with all my camera gear and the other bag with my laptops and travel documents also worth a couple thousand dollars.
He said there is no chance to board with both items. The overheads cant be full at that time because I was one of the first in Economy. There was plenty of space left in the overhead when I finally boarded after leaving one bag behind.
I asked the gate agent if the bag was insured if they gate checks it and his answer was only I can take that up with Lufthansa later on. He didn’t ask me to remove any fragile or expensive items. Well, it was probably not necessary to tell me, as I already told him that the gear in there is wort over 10k USD.
So I boarded the plane and made the decision to leave my backpack behind. I just didn’t want to leave all my important documents with the airline, like passport and government ID.
After a short flight, I arrived in Munich, I picked up my bags, including my backpack, at the baggage claim and everything looked alright. I went to the rental car counter and left the airport.
The next few days I was busy with meeting family and friends as I haven’t seen them in a year. The other day I wanted to get my camera ready to take pictures. I opened the backpack and it hit me. The airline broke my expensive Canon L lens of my camera body. It was in multiple pieces right where it mounts to the camera. I was shocked! Luckily it just broke the lens of the mount on the lens side, instead of ripping out the mount from the camera body. Then not only a $1200 dollar lens would be destroyed, but also a $2600 dollar body. I had to clean my camera sensor as lots of dust got inside because of the broken lens.
I called the airline immediately to let them know unfortunately they don’t really care about you. As I was 2 days too late to report the incident. I have 7 days after arrival to report it and I did it on the 9th day. The agent on the phone didn’t really care and as she checked the travel date and compared it with the date of my call, she only tried to get rid of me by telling me it’s after 7 days and that’s what the law in Germany is. I asked if they would do anything as a courtesy as this was not my first flight with them and I had some past business. The agent only told me that the law requires me to report it within 7 days. Well, she must have been not very bright, because there is no law of courtesy. If Lufthansa wants, they can buy an A380 and give it to me as a courtesy (well that is a bit more complicated as paying for stuff they broke).
So I got their email address for complaints and send them an email.
Then I waited and waited and waited even more. I called Lufthansa again and reached out on twitter when I will receive an answer. So finally after 2 months of sending my email out, I got a response.
The letter started with how sorry they are because of what happened and because it took so long to reply. Their excuse for the delay was that the weather had a big influence on them and there were many other customer requests. I bet there were if they break everybody’s personal items like mine they probably have a ton of complaints rolling in. Of course, the weather could be part of it too, but when I send the message the weather was not that severe. It got worth in January and February. Let’s make it count because I don’t know all their operations.
Further on in the email, they explained to me, that I could have removed all valuable items from the bag and had it brought with me on board. Well, dear Lufthansa, that would be basically everything, including the backpack, because that is a special backpack for camera gear and nothing you buy in a supermarket for $10 USD. So what is valuable for you or not? The cheapest piece in my camera bag was probably $500 and going up to over $3000. Is this valuable or not? Well if they don’t consider that as valuable, they shouldn’t have any problem to spend some money to replace it or? The stuff in the backpack included electronic gear with Li-Ion batteries which are not allowed to be checked according to Lufthansa’s transportation agreement. So basically they broke their own rules. If it convenient for the airline it is ok, if not the customer gets charged for it!? I told that the gate agent in London as well, that there are Li-Ion batteries in there, which are not allowed to be checked and he told me I have to leave the bag here and can board the plane or I have to stay in London. So what you gonna do? After a long overseas flight and you want to get finally home to see family and friends you will just give in.
I replied to Lufthansa’s email just a day later and have never heard from them again since then. Lufthansa, is this how a 5-star airline treats their customers?
Seems like nowadays everything has to go to court to settle issues like that. Really? Do you have to force their hand? Is that the only time when companies and corporations actually start acting? Why does nobody want to work together anymore to find a peaceful solution? Sometimes it’s also the customer who is at fault and tries to scam companies, I get that.
This is the worst impression I ever got from an airline. No airline before let me hang like this. Just because it’s easier to deny everything. Maybe it’s a company policy. But for sure some of their people, I talked to, are not the brightest. If you don’t know the difference between law and courtesy or people who refer to Lufthansa’s transportation contract and then don’t even know that they violated their own contract. Well, I am just one guest and it won’t make any impression or impact on the airline what I think, no matter if I am right or not. Well, I am not a frequent flier with Lufthansa, as they don’t operate flights within the US. I am not a frequent flier with Star Alliance, the alliance Lufthansa is a founding member because the US-based alliance-members route network is not very convenient for me. Maybe the outcome would be different in one of these cases. Nowadays you always get a “sincere apology” from companies if something happens where they are at fault. I am sorry but I can’t take your sincere apology to the next camera store and get a replacement lens.
Peter has a passion for Traveling, Photography, and Geocaching. These are the best ingredients for amazing adventures all over the globe. “Traveling is fun, no matter if you stay in a luxury hotel or travel like a backpacker.” Peter shares his experiences on his Blog www.gatetoadventures.com
Some of Peter’s photos are published on corporate websites, in-flight magazines, travel guides, and much more.