What are my options when Lufthansa changes my flight?
July 21, 2014 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Lufthansa changed my direct flight into a connecting flight. Do I have any recourse?

I booked direct flight tickets for my elderly parents from Vancouver to Munich. At the time of booking there were a number if cheaper options with connections but I opted to pay more so they could avoid the hassles of changing planes. Fast forward to today when I receive an email informing me that the return leg has now been changed to a connecting flight with a one hour stop in Frankfurt. Having flown out of there before I'm worried this will be a tight and stressful connection for two elderly people with some mobility issues. I understand they can probably do this due to some small fine print but I feel like I got bait and switched here. I will call them this afternoon but I'm just wondering if I have any recourse here at all. I'm sure they'll let me cancel the flight for a refund but at this point tickets would be much more expensive. Does anyone have any ideas? Thanks everybody!
posted by reformedjerk to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes, your recourse is that you are entitled to a refund.

You can ask them to move you to a more convenient flight schedule. Has the return flight been canceled?
posted by grouse at 9:51 AM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Other than asking for a refund, some of your other options would be:

Ask for a different schedule with a less tight connection.
Ask for your parents to be given mobility assistance (a beepy cart) between gates.

You can also try asking for a credit for the cost difference between the original direct flights and connecting tickets if flying on Lufthansa is something you regularly do such that a credit would be useful to you. Or frequent flier miles. You may not get it, or you may get the credits but credited only to your parents rather than to you.

Airlines actually give out partial credits (as opposed to partial refunds) pretty readily in my experience because they know that to use the credit, you'll have to fly with them again and pay them more money.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:56 AM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

They should be able to book you on a different return flight. Before calling I would check the Lufthansa website to see if there is another direct flight option that would work for your family. In my experience if you phone up with exactly what you want laid out for them, the chances of a successful outcome is higher. (IE, "A layover does not work for me, and I specifically purchased a more expensive flight without a layover. Please rebook our return trip on flight XXX instead which does not have a layover.")

At a minimum they should be able to reschedule you for a longer layover.
posted by muddgirl at 10:06 AM on July 21, 2014 [10 favorites]

Are you sure it's a traditional connection situation where they have to deplane and board a different flight? It might be the sort of connection where people flying through to the final destination remain on board while others get off and come on.

Otherwise, yes, insist that they find a nonstop return flight as that's what you specifically paid for.
posted by elizardbits at 10:08 AM on July 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

#1. See if there's another nonstop that would be acceptable. You'll almost certainly get a better response if you can point to a specific flight, even if that flight is sold out or only available at a much higher price than you paid. (Dang, just checked and it looks like the only other nonstop "flight" is an Air Canada codeshare.) #2. If not, see if there's a direct flight that's acceptable, because Munich-Frankfurt is not really far out of the way if they can just stay on the plane. It's within the Schengen, so there's no immigration/customs issues. However, a direct flight unlikely because why would they use a long-haul aircraft on an in-country hop. #3. EU passenger rights are pretty strong, you might ask on http://travel.stackexchange.com/ or maybe Flyertalk's forums, which are travel-specific and a little more international than Metafilter. Last resort, Chris Elliott is a reputable, honest travel advocate. There could be some sort of compensation available to you. #4. However, you are certainly due a refund if you want one. If it were me, I would look on Kayak for the other alternatives available to me. Maybe the price has dropped on another carrier. Lufthansa has a lot of flights, there is almost certainly one with a do-able layover, and you might be able to extract some compensation (frequent flyer miles are easier to get than credit, which is way easier than cash). Your argument for compensation will be strengthened if you can point to the decreased price of the options.
posted by wnissen at 12:07 PM on July 21, 2014

When talking to them, be sure to tell them what you originally booked and what you desire is a "non stop" flight, not "direct." Direct means a single flight number with one or more stops, possibly on the same plane but often not. Nonstop is what you want. No stops, no change of planes.

If you ask for a direct flight, you will not get what you want and the agents will be confused as to why it is you are complaining about getting what you asked for.

On the bright side, you should be entitled to be rebooked on any flight with availability in the cabin you originally booked, even if the only seats available are in a higher fare bucket.
posted by wierdo at 1:38 PM on July 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Probably not what you want to hear, but Frankfurt is a notoriously awful place to make a short connection. The airport is huge, they like to use buses instead of jet bridges to get you on and off planes, somehow you alway have to go through security twice, there are long lines everywhere, and last time I was there the internal rail system was broken. Lufthansa is in complete denial about how long it takes to navigate the airport for a connection, so they don't change layover times to accomodate. What they have done is get rebooking passengers who have missed their connection down to an art.

I'd definitely see if there's a way to get your parents on a different flight, a direct flight, or at least 2-3 hours at Frankfurt to make the connection.
posted by whitewall at 11:43 PM on July 21, 2014

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