Lufthansa Lost My Suitcase For 2 Weeks. Here’s How They Responded.
Back in November, Lufthansa lost my suitcase for 2 weeks. For a full 6 days of that 2 weeks, they actually weren’t even sure if they’d ever had it in their hands. It took a full 2 weeks to get it to me through a comedy (not the funny kind) of errors. Amazingly, the suitcase was staring them in the face most of this time, and they didn’t know it. After all the headaches it created, I wrote that I was joining team carry on. In this article, I want to provide an update. The baggage situation didn’t resolve as previously expected when writing the last article. Headaches and frustration continued, and it has taken over a month to reach a solution.
Recap on Baggage Delay With Lufthansa
Over a month ago, I flew to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with Lufthansa. I even had a very positive review of the flight. Due to delays and sitting on the runway, I wound up running to catch my flight from Frankfurt to Jeddah. My suitcase did not run. Of course that meant I arrived in Jeddah without my suitcase. To make matters worse, I didn’t get it until after I was home from my vacation. That was a full 10 days of holiday plus the day of travel to get there, a day of travel to get home, and 2 days after I was home before I received my bag. 2 full weeks.
Why was it such a disaster? Because Lufthansa did everything in its power to make sure that the situation got worse. In no exaggeration, the baggage claim area at the Jeddah airport is the most disorganized I have ever seen in my life. The process for filing a claim for delayed suitcase was ridiculous. They said my suitcase would arrive the next day. It did, but the problem was that they did not know it had arrived, and this made everything during the trip get even worse.
How Lufthansa Made the Situation Worse
My suitcase sat in the Jeddah Airport for 6 days before they knew that it was there. No one ever scanned the ticket on my suitcase. This meant no one could track it. The normal process, at least with Lufthansa, is that a website provides tracking updates every time your bag ticket is scanned. You can even elect to receive these updates by email or text message, very similar to sending a package with the post office. If this is the way the system should work, it is entirely dependent on someone scanning the bag. What happens if no one is scanning the bag? What if no one knows that your suitcase is staring them in the face?
This is exactly what happened with my suitcase. The people you would normally expect to provide a solution in this area absolutely made sure to tell me that their job was not their job. My incident report paperwork had a phone number for baggage services at the Jeddah Airport. I can confirm that no one answers this phone. Between myself, a friend who works in Saudi Arabia, my hotel staff, and confirming this number with multiple sources, I promise you that the number works but no one answers. Proof: one day, my friend arrived at work at 8am, called the phone number on my paperwork for Jeddah baggage services, and left it ringing until she clocked out at 5pm. No one ever picked up.
Lufthansa Social Media
The next line of defense should be contacting Lufthansa directly. I reached out to their Twitter team in a private message with all relevant info. They told me to use the website. I mentioned to them that the website had no updates, so they told me to make a phone call to the number on my paperwork. When I pointed out that no one answered this phone number, they told me that they are not baggage services and then never replied to me again. I was polite and professional the entire time, but they recused themselves from any involvement. They wouldn’t even answer if there was a different phone number I could try.
Lufthansa Phone Numbers
I tried calling Lufthansa customer service in the US, and they gave me a separate phone number for baggage services. They actually answered the phone when I called, but they told me that they only handle suitcases that are missing in the US and then hung up on me. I was wasting time on my vacation, so I had both a friend and my mom call on my behalf to get more information. Again, they said that they only work with suitcases missing in the US, and the phone call ended.
A friend who lives in Germany called the customer service number there and spoke to them in German, seeking some kind of info on how to locate the bag. She also tried calling Lufthansa’s office at the Frankfurt Airport. Both of these told her that the only way to get information about my suitcase is to use the website for tracking. When she said that the website had no updates on the tracking, they said they had no answers and ended the phone call. Somehow, it was no one’s job to know where my suitcase was or to even point me in the right direction. “That’s not my job” is the mentality of their employees. Telling me to use a suitcase tracking website that doesn’t work is essentially meaningless.
Going to the Airport
Now that I had moved on to another country, things became even more complicated. I tried going to the airport in Oman and asking there. Since this airport wasn’t the “owner” of my suitcase paperwork, all they could do was look up where it was last scanned. They could not tell anyone “send the suitcase to us”. Only the site where you created the claim can give orders. Jeddah was completely useless, so this made them owning my claim more difficult.
Lufthansa Customer Service Email
After several days, Lufthansa replied to me by email saying they only handle claims for reimbursement. Helping you find a suitcase isn’t their job. Again, it’s apparently no one’s job at Lufthansa to find your lost suitcase, just a website that is meaningless if no one actually scans the bag.
When I arrived home more than 10 days later, I initiated a new claim with Lufthansa Brazil. They appeared shocked (yeah, no kidding) the whole trip had ended without my bag. They were quite surprised to see that in effect Lufthansa lost my suitcase, since no one could say where it was at that point. When I arrived home, the last scan of my suitcase had been “we found it” at Jeddah airport. That was 6 days after it had arrived there, and there had been no other scans since then.
I’d tried to open a case with the agents at the airport on my return, but you can’t create a 2nd case on the same claim ticket. I had to do it over the phone. They became the new “owners” of my bag. They ordered it be sent to my home address. I made sure to tell them I wanted it delivered. No way was I driving to the airport (it’s 45 minutes away) after all the annoyance they’d put me through. My suitcase arrived at my door at 8 p.m. a full 2 days after I arrived home.
With my receipts, I wrote an email for reimbursement of items I am purchased on my trip. Toiletries, underwear, and shirts were all included and detailed in the claim. I also highlighted the numerous failures by Lufthansa along the way. I told them that I planned to never fly Lufthansa again. In fact, I had originally thought the title of this post would be “Why I’m never flying Lufthansa again.”
Lufthansa stole significant time from my holiday, to be blunt. I spent more than an hour every day calling, emailing, tweeting, and searching for my bag. Numerous trips to airports to try to inquire in person. I lost significant time from my trip and had frustration after frustration.
Going Above the Customer Service Team
Years ago, a friend told me that some issues are just too big for the customer service department. When the customer service department is part of the problem, then you need to tell someone else about the problem. The advice: find the regional operations manager or CEO or similar online and email that person, if the situation is really that big. I felt that a situation where Lufthansa lost my suitcase and didn’t know where it was and then everyone saying “not my job” was a situation that warranted going up the ladder.
This is only the 2nd time in my life that I have emailed a CEO. I am not one of those people who complains to the boss about everything. I am definitely not the “let me speak to your manager” customer. The only other time I’ve emailed a CEO was my United debacle.
After 6 days, Lufthansa replied to my email saying they realize how badly they’d messed up. They say they’re reviewing their internal processes for how to communicate with baggage service teams (who are contractors, not Lufthansa staff). They also sent me 300 euros to cover my expenses and headaches.
While it’s a nice gesture, it doesn’t give me back my time and frustration during a holiday. 300 euros to make up for 10 days x 1 hour per day looks less impressive when you put it that way. When you subtract the roughly 50 euros I spent on items I needed during the trip, it becomes 250 euros for their wasting of my time on a holiday. It’s better than nothing, but I’d rather have my time back, and that’s not something they can give me.
I learned a few lessons from this:
- Wherever you file your claim becomes the owner of the process. No one else can issue orders on your ticket. Think about this if you’re going to relocate to another city soon. Who do you want to be in charge, calling the shots?
- Adding to that, you can’t start a new claim on the same ticket. You’re stuck with the owner from #1, even if they’re completely useless. Jeddah was beyond useless, and that’s putting it mildly.
- Bag updates should come when your bag is scanned. You’d think that customer service would help you on this, but Lufthansa absolutely refuses to engage with you about bags via the customer service team. I’d think that’s part of customer service, but I was clearly wrong. If the scan system isn’t used, you get nothing. “Not my job” if it’s anything about a suitcase.
- Lufthansa must have some way to communicate with their baggage service teams. I just can’t accept that they don’t know how to contact these people. Maybe this “review” they’re going to do will include confirming these contact details and telling people to use them when customers can’t get anyone to pick up the phone. It’s 2019, just tell customers the email address and then tell your people to answer it. That’s likely the best solution. It shouldn’t take days or weeks to get a reply for something as simple as “is there a different phone number I can call?”.
Am I happy that I got 300 euros? Sure. Did it fix everything? Nope. Lufthansa has a long, long way to go before I’ll be happy with them. United actually offered me less money but made me happier during my disaster with them. The phone call from someone in the CEO’s office profusely apologizing and thanking me for helping them do better was a great touch. Lufthansa could learn from this as it attempts to right the ship from this debacle. There’s no way finding a bag and getting it to me should be this difficult. There’s no way I should get it a full 2 days after I’m already home. It’s technically a “bag delay”, but the blunt truth is that Lufthansa lost my suitcase into a black hole. I don’t know how I can trust them.
It might be time to add this to my list of travel horror stories.