I just want my socks

Dear Lufthansa, Sky Handling Partner, and MultiTrip.com,

I’m writing this while sitting in my mother’s house, wearing almost the only pair of socks to my name. The reason for this begins on Friday night, and almost unbelievably, is still continuing now, as I write this, on Tuesday evening.

On Friday night, I returned to Dublin on Lufthansa flight LH982 from Frankfurt Main Airport. Unfortunately, though my friend and I checked in our luggage together, his case arrived in Dublin, but mine decided it would quite like to extend its stay in Frankfurt by a spell, and never showed up on the luggage belt. I made the fun journey to the Sky Handling Partner desk to report the missing luggage, confirmed my contact details and description of the luggage, and headed home, safe in the knowledge that Lufthansa find most missing bags within the first 24 hours (PDF). 24 hours later, Lufthansa hadn’t found my bag, and I became very familiar with the  phrase “Tracing continues, please check back later.”

Since I travel a lot for martial arts trips, and I’m always aware of the dangers of lost or delayed luggage (and broken bones!), I have multi-trip travel insurance with Multitrip.com (in fact, I opted for a premium level of cover to allow for a larger amount of luggage compensation in the case of loss). Once my bag didn’t arrive on Saturday, I knew I’d need some help or provision for some emergency supplies, so I searched around the Multitrip website and eventually found a number to call. I was redirected to a call centre and told that this line was for medical emergencies, and that I’d have to call the claims team on Monday since they’re only open Mon-Fri, 9-5. I was advised that I should buy whatever I need, and then I could send the receipts in for consideration of refund, but they couldn’t confirm I’d be covered for these expenses.

Anyone who follows me on twitter, is friends with me on facebook, or knows me in general will understand why I had to explain to Multitrip why simply “buying whatever I need” wasn’t an option – shortly before my trip to Germany, I had a house fire. Most of my clothes are not currently wearable, and have been deemed impossible to salvage also, so I had recently had to buy lots of replacement emergency clothes, for which I am, of course, still waiting for a refund from my home insurance. Most of these replacement clothes were in the case that had been lost, leaving me in a very difficult position. Multitrip said there was nothing they could do, I would simply have to wait until Monday.

By Sunday, I was feeling pretty worried that my case still hadn’t been located, so I researched my rights regarding delayed luggage, and came across the Montreal Convention. This is a convention which says that airlines must pay compensation for many of the common problems with air travel, such as delayed flights, denied boarding, and delayed luggage. There are lots of resources which explain the convention, so I was reasonably confident of my understanding of it when I called Lufthansa. Lufthansa told me that, of course, they would pay for my emergency expenses, but only 50% of them. When I asked for clarification, I was told that this was part of the Montreal Convention. Huh?

LufthansaTweet

I checked and double-checked the convention, and all of the sites I had found, and none of them had any statement which implied that airline liability was somehow capped at 50%, so I asked Lufthansa on Twitter to clarify. They told me that any refund is in accordance with their liability policy (PDF), which they linked me to.

I checked Lufthansa’s liability policy, and can find no mention of this 50% provision anywhere there either. Though I have since asked Lufthansa several times on twitter, facebook, and over the phone, I have had no explanation for why this 50% policy seems to be known by every call centre operative, but seems to appear nowhere in their own luggage liability documents. In fact, I was told by one representative, who I spoke to on Monday, that anyone in Lufthansa would tell me that it was 50%, but that they couldn’t tell me why. To do that, I’d have to get in touch with Customer Service, and there is no phone number for Customer Service, I may only write to, or email them. The last time I emailed Customer Service (5/9/12), their reply arrived on the 9th of November, 2 months later…

By Monday, my bag still hadn’t arrived, so I called Multitrip to speak to someone about a claim. This is when I found out that my bags are magic. You see, Multitrip defines a “trip” for me as starting when I leave my “home” (place of residence, not country of residence), and finishing only when I return to my “home”. You would imagine, then, if bags didn’t arrive in Dublin Airport, a place which I am not currently resident, that they would be part of my trip – no, my bags are special. Multitrip only care about your bags on the way out to your destination – in other words, there is only cover for a delayed bag on one leg of your trip. If your bag is delayed on the way home, you’re just plain out of luck. So while I must complete trips by returning to my home, my bags need only fly to my destination, and apparently magic themselves home. I informed Multitrip that I would be cancelling my policy and looking elsewhere, and I can only encourage you to check your own travel insurance policy to see if your insurer also doesn’t care what you lose on the way home.

Shortly after calling Multitrip, I received my first call from Lufthansa – they thought they had found my bag. They were going to try to get it on the 5pm flight, and would call me back to let me know if they had managed it. They didn’t call me back. Monday evening came and went, and with absolutely no clothes available to me, I had to go and buy some supplies.

On Tuesday, when my bag still hadn’t arrived, I called Lufthansa. They told me that there was something wrong with my phone, that the number I gave them must have been incorrect, that no one could get through to me. I found this hard to believe, since my phone is almost never switched off, has a voice-mail facility, and had received multiple calls on both Monday and Tuesday without issue. I confirmed my number (it was correct), and gave them an additional number to try (my mum’s phone). When I arrived home from work that afternoon, they hadn’t called my mobile, nor the alternative number I provided them with. I called Lufthansa again, asking why I hadn’t been called, confirming my details again, and was told that someone would call me back soon to arrange delivery. When I asked why I couldn’t just arrange delivery now, Lufthansa said that the delivery company had to speak directly to me before arranging delivery; so the company that apparently couldn’t call me or leave a message needed to call me or leave a message before delivering my luggage. Great.

I waited another hour or two, and then called again to ask why no effort had been made to call me. I was told that it must have been an issue with my phone (again), that my number was wrong (again), and that it was now too late for any deliveries so there was nothing they could do. My luggage was going to spend another night tantalisingly close, but not with me, because apparently I’m harder to get a hold of than the Doctor.

At about 7.30pm that evening, I received a very interesting call from the delightful Sky Handling Partners (seriously, check out that professional looking site – doesn’t it fill you with confidence?) who wanted to arrange for the delivery of my luggage the next day. After a brief conversation about what time the luggage would come at, I asked how they were able to call me this evening, when they had been completely unable to for the past two days. The answer I got was brusque to say the least. I was told once again that my number was wrong (it still wasn’t), and that there was a problem with my phone (there wasn’t, and still isn’t). When I said that my number wasn’t incorrect, and that I had even provided another number as an alternate contact, I was told that they had tried twice on Monday, that they didn’t have the time or resources to keep calling just one passenger over and over, and that they have other airlines to manage, you know! I tried to ask why they didn’t leave a voicemail if they were unable to get through, but I was cut off, and told that there was no point in going through it all again. I was genuinely appalled at the way I was spoken to, so after terminating the call, I called back to ask to speak to Customer Service so that I could register a complaint. I’m reasonably certain that it was the same, extremely rude woman who answered the phone and told me that they don’t have a customer service department, and if I wanted to register a complaint, I’d have to write, so I asked for the email address in order to do so.

This brings us to today – I’m still without my luggage, though hoping that it will arrive today. The way Sky Handling Partner spoke to me, however, gives me no confidence in the planned arrival of my luggage, and makes me worried about what condition my luggage might be in if it ever does arrive. I have submitted a complaint to Lufthansa about the way this has all been handled (Feedback ID FB-ID 21983388 if you’re reading, Lufthansa!), though I’m not confident about the speed of their reply, and I simply won’t accept this 50% provision unless they can show me where it’s mentioned in that linked liability policy they gave me – how can a company insist on being 50% liable for something that’s 100% their mistake? I’m out-of-pocket for more replacement clothes I’ve had to buy to replace the replacement clothes that Lufthansa lost, and with Lufthansa seemingly only willing to pay 50%, I’m likely to be left out-of-pocket in the long-term. I fly often with Lufthansa, and have always thought of them as a very reliable airline, but these current difficulties have made me rethink that position.

So, Lufthansa, Multitrip.com, and Sky Handling Partner – please, I’m not asking for much. I don’t want world peace, or the Hope Diamond, I just want my dirty socks.

 

Update

Lufthansa have replied to my complaint, thankfully a good deal more promptly than last time. Sadly, the answer they have given is still unsatisfactory, because it doesn’t really answer anything at all:

Dear Ms Keane,

Thank you for your online feedback via www.Lufthansa.com

dated 17 June 2013.

We regret that your checked baggage did not arrive following your flight LH982 from Frankfurt to Dublin on 14 June 2013. Please accept our sincerest apologies for this unfortunate occurrence and for any inconvenience caused. In addition, we are sorry to learn about the unfortunate event that happened to your home prior to your trip.

Luggage is normally handled with accuracy and care and the vast majority is processed without incident. Of course, we realise that statistics are of little meaning to a passenger whose luggage has been delayed and regret the less than positive impression gained. According to our records we are glad that your baggage was delivered on 18 June 2013.

In cases of delayed baggage delivery the customer is entitled, to a reasonable extent and taking his/her standard of living in consideration, to buy consumer items and toiletries which correspond to the content of the baggage which is temporarily delayed.

Please allow us to explain that interim purchases are refunded in accordance with the Montreal Convention and with Lufthansa policy which is, as you are aware, 50% for clothing and 100% for undergarments and toiletries. This procedure fulfils the legal rules and regulations. Should you wish the full amount for your interim purchases to be refunded you may send the items of clothing purchased back to us, along with the original receipts, to the address below:

Deutsche Lufthansa AG
P.O.Box 710234
60492 Frankfurt
Germany

Furthermore, in order for us to process your claim, kindly ask you to provide us with your receipt of interim purchase in PDF or JPEG format along with your complete bank details, including IBAN (International Bank Account Number). Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Emphasis my own there, highlighting the paragraph where they discuss their policy, but still fail to tell me where exactly this policy is specified. I have responded to clarify that, due to issues in Dublin, my bag was not returned to me on the 18th, but is still in Dublin Airport. I have also told them that their policy explanation is not accepted, because that is not the policy which is stated on their site.

Thank you for your reply, but I’m afraid that while I’m aware of your 50% policy, it doesn’t seem to be stated anywhere in the policy documents which you linked to me, and as such, I don’t see how you could possibly apply it. There is no mention of 50% or sending clothes back in the liability document which you linked me, so I do not accept this option as viable or correct.
Additionally, further issues with unreturned phone calls mean that your records are incorrect – my baggage was not returned to me on 18th of June, and instead is still in Dublin Airport today.
I am not asking you to cover exorbitant expenses and I haven’t purchased expensive specialist replacement clothes – I purchased desperately needed socks, underwear, and the cheapest and plainest t-shirt that I could find while I waited for a mistake that I didn’t make to be resolved, and it is simply unacceptable to state that your policy is to only refund 50% when a) the error was not mine, and therefore I am not 50% (nor any percent) responsible for it, and b) it’s not actually stated in your policy. The policy document sent to me is here – If you could be so kind as to highlight for me where on this page the 50% margin is made clear, I’d be delighted to review it.
At the moment, I am not satisfied to close this complaint.

I’ll keep you posted with further updates if and when they come.

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