The saying “Foreign Carriers are better than domestic” Sounds True until you try Lufthansa.

This is a blog post I’ve been putting off for a long time. Mostly, I’ve been putting it off to prevent this post from becoming a 10 page rant that absolutely no one would read all the way through. The length of just the outline is nearly 3 pages, so I’m sure that the actual length of my rant would exceed 15 pages. As an upfront disclaimer, I would like to defend my post admitting that I had no intention of disliking Lufthansa when trying them out.

To keep this post simple I’ll use bullet points of where I have been screwed over by Lufthansa: [And that you may want to consider when looking to fly with them]

  • Ticketing
    • E-Ticketing is kind of nice (although standard will all major airlines). They however, will not print your connecting ticket within the US. Thanks guys! That’ll make the run through O’Hare from terminal 5 to 1 even quicker. [That was sarcasm, in case you were wondering]
  • Check-In Agents
    • There is absolutely no “flat tire” rule at Lufthansa. The agents don’t care, and you are screwed. They don’t care even if the gate and security is directly behind the check in desk. [As it is in Tegal]
    • [This was told to me by an army member on the flight from Charlotte to Frankfurt]: Lufthansa charges service men/women extra for second and overweight packs when being deployed. The charge she was forced to pay at the gate was $400 on the spot for two bags. This is, from what she claimed, a waved courtesy provided by US Air.
  • Value For Class
    • Business: The short hops, this is more of a gimmick than anything else
    • Y-Fare Class: Also known as the “we completely screwed you over and we don’t care” class. This is not a refundable ticket. It doesn’t even guarantee service. If you are gifted by the “grace of the gods” [a.k.a. Ticketing people and their managers], you may be able to get a credit towards a rebooking (based on the estimated value of the ticket). This does not help you in times of trouble where you need to rebook a flight. Most typically when rebooking a flight, the flight cost increases and you must pay the difference.
  • Flight Quality
    • You’d think with the higher cost and “advertised premium value” however it depends on what flight it is:
      • Charlotte-Munich has a decent set of equipment and flight attendants
      • Frankfurt-O’Hare has one of the oldest planes I’ve flown with LH, and the surliest flight attendants that I’ve ever had.
      • On the surly flight attendants on FRA-ORD: Just after takeoff, my neighbor-across-the-aisle’s (a fragile 80 year old grandmother) bin came unsecured and the baggage threatened to fall out. I notified the flight attendants about this by signaling it to them. They refused to address it and signaled back for me to resolve the situation. Fortunately for the old lady, I have a soft spot for old ladies and prefer to see them uncrushed. I probably should have contacted the FAA about this.
  • Scheduling
    • My rebooking (of TXL-MUC-CLT) ended up being Tegal Berlin-Frankfurt-Chicago-Charlotte. There were 4 delays. The first delay was in Frankfurt to Chicago, the rest were the Chicago to Charlotte flight. One delay from Chicago to Charlotte, allowed me to actually get through security. This was not a fun 20-23 set of hours travelling.
    • The ticketing agent refused to put me on a star alliance flight until it became the last option [Chicago to Charlotte] – this despite mentioning CO97 was leaving only an hour later [direct to NYC]. The agent refused because it was not a Lufthansa-operated flight.
  • Baggage handling
    • On my rescheduled flight back my baggage was “lost” between Frankfurt and Charlotte. It made it back in Charlotte, however it would have been nice to know that the baggage was “priority marked” and I didn’t have to wait for it before going through customs.
  • Cost
    • For every flight path I’ve seen Lufthansa is always more expensive than any of the other carriers.
  • General PR
    • Their Facebook page congratulated a judge on dismissing the Frankfurt Air Controllers strike [due to pay demands]. So: the people that prevent planes from crashing on landing, and manage the planes in the air [according to LH] are the ‘bad guys’?
  • Customer Service After the fact
    • If you have an issue, phone support will not hear your complaint. They will tell you to complain online.
    • If you complain online, you’ll receive an automated letter that they are “experiencing high volumes” during the middle of the summer. (Really? There’s a red flag)
    • My first complaint was never responded-to, nor was my email to the CEO. The second complaint sent online referenced the first. This got their attention only 2 months after the second complaint.
    • When they respond to you they attempt to “appear sympathetic” by passively putting the blame you on by saying: “We’re sorry that you were displeased with the service” [Translation, it was your fault using our service go **** yourself] Then they come up with a crap reason why they don’t have to tend to your complaint, such as in my case the complaints were dismissed for the rebooked flight because the original flight’s checkin time was missed. Seriously? Basically you can pay $1500 extra [in my case] on top of the existing full fare ticket], and they aren’t responsible for the service?
  • Frequent Flier Program
    • Earning Miles
      • The main draw of the program is that it’s within the star alliance, but it’s extremely difficult to earn on their partners (without full fare tickets &/or long distance tickets).
      • Earning miles is based on the class of your ticket – which is typical, but the earning ability is rather crappy. Discounted tickets [E, K, L, T] are credited at  only 50% of the miles flown.
    • Spending Miles
      • Flights
        • You have to earn ~60,000 miles with Lufthansa [but have flown far more actual miles]. By this time you’ve pretty much have flown enough to put a major payment down on a house. Your reward is a round trip ticket from North America to Europe, with the cost of $700 [in a non-peak season]. Congratulations: you have just wasted all that money on flights, to get an award flight that you still have to pay a large percentage of the ticket. To compare with another Star Alliance carrier, United, the equivalent cost for an award ticket can be 60k miles and $120-200 on average.
      • Hotels
        • Last year I earned 26k award miles: I don’t plan on ever using this program again. I thought, hey I can get a free night stay. I go to look up the costs: For a non-peak area in Charlotte, it costs between 30k and 41k miles. That is the equivalent of 4-5 round trip trips to Germany for only a $120-160 night stay in a small city.

My flight experiences for travel from the east coast to Europe have been with American Airlines, US Airways, United/Continental, and Lufthansa. Each of the airlines I have flown the transatlantic route at least twice. With shorter routes [domestic and international] I have also flown with Delta, Southwest, British Airways, and KLM.

To summarize: Who would I recommend Lufthansa to? Wall street bankers? No: yachts and $100k+ cars sound like a better investment. Regular bankers? I’m pretty sure expensing that [on first class] is a bit of a stretch. (First class from San Francisco to Frankfurt was $20k when launched – that’s the price of a Toyota Accord.) Paid for by someone else? Not worth the stress or effort (trust me on this).

To get back to being serious, who do I think should fly with Lufthansa:

  1. People who are pleased with self harm
  2. People that I don’t like. I’m not talking about “I just have distaste”. I’m referring to an enemy for life situation here.

Too Long; Didn’t read? Avoid this lame flying duck.