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Trying to get to Italy on
Lufthansa ruined the start of our ski holiday.
We were lucky to get there
day later (on Air Canada and Alitalia).
Here's the sad
By Ed Pollock
travel agency, Ultimate Destinations organized an escorted seniors' group ski
trip to Italy, every winter from 2004 to 20012.
|In 2007, our trip
to Italy had been planned and ticketed on flights scheduled to leave Toronto
Friday March 2nd, 2007 at suppertime, arriving in Frankfurt early Saturday
morning and leaving Frankfurt three hours later for the final flight to Verona
Italy. Arrangements had been made for the 2-hour private bus transfer from
Verona to the ski resort hotel in the Alps in Moena.
|Two of our group
were booked on Lufthansa - myself, Edward Pollock, the tour escort and author of
this report and John Gallagher, who had been on all but one of my previous
trips. The others were booked on Air Canada.
|John and I were
booked on Lufthansa Flight 471, scheduled to depart from Toronto Friday, March
2nd at 5:30 pm, to arrive in Frankfurt at 7:25 am Saturday morning, to connect
with Lufthansa Flight 3944 leaving Frankfurt at 10:25 am, scheduled to arrive in
Verona Italy at 11:50 am.
entire trip package, including flights, ground transfers and accommodation was sold to clients by
Ultimate Destination travel agency and booked and prepaid with Manditours International
Inc. Richmond Hill ON. However, Mandi Tours did not issue the Lufthansa flight
tickets. Mandi Tours booked the flights with Voyages Intair TR, who issued the
tickets for the flights.
Both of us, Ed
Pollock and John Gallagher checked by telephone prior to leaving for the airport
Friday and were told the flight from Toronto was scheduled to leave on time. We arrived
at the airport separately, about three hours prior to flight time, checked in
our luggage in and both of us were told at the check-in that the flight was
scheduled to leave on time.
|We proceeded to the
departure lounge separately and at that point met up with each other. We
noted that the information at the departure lounge notice boards still showed
that the flight was scheduled to leave on time. But when it came time to
depart, the two Lufthansa staff members at the gate informed those who asked,
that the plane was on its way from Montreal and had been delayed, but should be
arriving shortly. The notice boards continued to show departure times
right up until that departure time had passed, after which they changed to a
later departure time. This scenario continued to repeat itself all evening,
including the Lufthansa gate employees' insistences that the plane was on its
way from Montreal.
|One of the
passengers used the public telephone at Pearson airport to call Lufthansa's
information number. The passenger was told that the aircraft that was supposed
to be coming from Montreal was experiencing problems and had to return to
Montreal airport. The passenger was told that the aircraft was
originally scheduled to arrive in Toronto the previous day, but had to stop in
Montreal because of the weather in Toronto. The aircraft had waited on the
ground for the weather in Toronto to clear, and had kept the engines running on
the ground, hoping to be able to continue to Toronto and this may have been the
reason the plane was experiencing equipment difficulty.
|But the Lufthansa
gate staff at Pearson continued to tell people that the plane was on its way
from Montreal and the notice boards continued to show a later and later time
right up until 11:30 pm when an announcement was finally made that the flight
had been cancelled and passengers would have to pick up their luggage. It was
later on when there was another announcement telling passengers which carousel would
have their luggage. No announcement was made to tell passengers what to do other
than to pick up their luggage. It took more than an hour for all the
luggage to finally reach the carousel.
|Passengers had no
idea what they should do. Many had travelled a long way to reach Pearson airport
and the Lufthansa check-in desk was being mobbed by them as they tried to
arrange hotel accommodation for those who required it. No attempt was offered or
being made to contact anyone at the passengers' points of arrival to make
alternative arrangements or adjustments for transfers or accommodation missed because of the flight cancellation per
|By the time Pollock
and Gallagher finally got their luggage and returned to the Lufthansa check-in
area, there was not one Lufthansa employee there (or anyone else, for that
matter). So Ed Pollock and John Gallagher arranged their own transportation to
their homes in Oakville and Milton respectively.
|Ed Pollock, the
tour escort tried to get in touch with transfer people who were to meet them in
Verona, but it was impossible to reach them before they reached Verona airport
to wait for the two passengers who were not going to arrive.
|When Ed Pollock
called Lufthansa the next morning, he was first connected to the Lufthansa's
U.S. phone service. The person there had no information and said he could not
confirm Pollock and Gallagher on the Saturday flight. Later on the Lufthansa
phone help desk in Canada said the same thing, but suggested that they would be
confirmed at the airport.
|Just to be on the
safe side, before leaving for the airport, Ed Pollock got on the computer and
checked seats available on flights from Toronto connecting with flights to
Verona Italy leaving Saturday March 3rd arriving Sunday March 4th, 2007 and took
the printout with him to the airport.
On arrival at the
airport, Pollock and Gallagher were told they could not be confirmed on the
Lufthansa flight and their luggage could not be checked in because there were no
seats available, because there was only one aircraft and there were too many
people left over from the previous day's flights that had been cancelled. This was
surprising news, since Lufthansa should have had more than enough time from the
previous day to arrange for aircraft to make sure they could accommodate all the
people that had been left over from the previous day's flight that had been
cancelled due to
equipment problems (not the weather).
everyone else had been checked in and confirmed on Lufthansa or other
flights, Ed Pollock approached the one lady that everyone else working for Lufthansa
seemed to have to come to in order to get anything done, and showed her the
printout which showed that seats were available on an Air Canada flight to Rome connecting with
an Alitilia flight to Verona. She immediately went on her computer and booked
John Gallagher and Ed Pollock on the flights and filled out the ticket
forms. No one offered to or said they would call the hotel in Italy to
change the transfer arrival time in Verona
|If Ed Pollock had
not had the information on the Air Canada flight to Italy along with the
Alitalia flight to Verona, it was almost certain Ed Pollock and John Gallagher would have lost
day of their six day's skiing vacation, and who knows when Lufthansa would have been
able to get them there?
Gallagher had just enough time to check in their luggage and board the Air
Canada flight to Rome. They arrived in
Rome on Sunday morning, and had a five hour wait for the flight to Verona. They
went to the Lufthansa desk in Rome, and the manager there immediately confirmed
that in circumstances when a flight had been delayed or cancelled due to
equipment problems, the airline was responsible to notify the destination of the
change, and he did so immediately without question and was very pleasant about
it, unlike the Lufthansa manager at Toronto Pearson, who provided no help
|Ed Pollock called
Mandi Tours from Pearson to tell them the Lufthansa flight the night before had
been cancelled and there were problems getting seats on the Saturday flight.
He was not able to reach them again by the time arrangements had been made for
the Air Canada flight. So Mandi Tours did not know Pollock and Gallagher were
not on the Saturday Lufthansa flight and consequently were unable change the
arrangements for the transfer from the airport to the hotel again. So two
transfers were missed - one on Saturday and again on Sunday.
|After having a meal
during the long wait between flights at the Fiumicino airport in Rome, Pollock
and Gallagher were met after the flight to Verona by the twice previously
delayed transfer driver and driven to their hotel in Moena, Val di Fassa. In
Moena, they met up with the other members of their group who had left Toronto on
the Friday evening on their Air Canada flight and had arrived at the ski resort
a little late but had not missed out on any days of their six-day ski vacation.
|The return flights
on Lufthansa at the end of the ski vacation were uneventful.
|The value of the
ski vacation, which cost more than $3,000.00 and had been shortened and reduced
nearly 17% - as well as resulting in significant additional out-of-pocket
expenses due to Lufthansa's inability to deliver the services contracted for and
their refusal to accept any responsibility for not being unable to deal with the
problem in a satisfactory manner prompted this report.
|The situation was
not just a problem that could not have been avoided, if Lufthansa had been "on
the ball". The problem began when the aircraft that should have been in Toronto
was not there - almost a whole day after the aircraft ended up in the wrong
place. This led to the flight cancellation. Then to make matters worse,
another whole day later Lufthansa still faced a the now bigger problem of
accommodating all the passengers. If Lufthansa was a little guy with only a few
aircraft, this might be understandable. But Lufthansa is not a little guy.
The situation that Lufthansa found itself in is not unique in the air transport
industry. It happens often. But Lufthansa did not deal with it satisfactorily.
involved were contacted both verbally (whenever possible) and in writing. Below
are excerpts of four of the pertinent documents:
1. Letter from: Susan Ippolito, Office Manager, Manditours
International Inc. Richmond Hill Ontario
Addressed to: Intair,
Montreal Quebec, Attn: Customer Service. Dated March 9, 2007
Re: Claim - Record Locator KAUAOB
- Pollock/Edward Mr. and Gallagher/John Mr.
These 2 passengers
were booked on a ski package in Moena, Italy, which included transfers and
accommodations which was all prepaid 3 weeks prior to clients arrival. The
transfers were from Verona airport to the ski resort. Travel time is
approximately 3 to 4 hours one way. Unfortunately they had problems with their
flights, which caused cancellations and delays for their arrival, and new
charges were incurred because of this.
The flight on the
2nd of March was cancelled for these clients, causing them to miss
their connection in Frankfurt on the 3rd of March to Verona, where the transfer
company was scheduled to pick them up at 12:30pm on the 3rd
of March and the passengers did not show.
were not protected on the Lufthansa flight the next day,
the 3rd of March which was overbooked so they were re-booked again on
flight AC890 & AZ1491 through Rome to arrive on the 4th of March.
day plus another 4 hours late. The transfer company waited at the airport on the 3rd from
12:30pm to a later flight which arrived at 18:40pm, charging €18.00 each hour, totaling
€108.00 . The clients did not
show up until the next day, the 4th of March, on a flight which
arrived later than expected, which means they were
charged again for a full transfer service of €250.00
plus waiting time, one way. Also these passengers
missed 1 night of accommodation and one day of skiing with their private ski guide booked for 6
days, and they missed one day of that as well.
originally were to arrive on the same day at the same time as the rest of their
group, who had arrived the day originally scheduled. Their transfer one
way was priced at a cost of €250.00 . But with all of the cancellations and delays
that occurred, the new costs that were incurred to the passengers over and above what
they have already pre paid is a total of €1140.00 .
They are seeking
compensation from the airline for the amount of €1140.00 .
I am faxing this
letter, which includes the explanation of the charges which I received from
Italy for the clients, as well
as the breakdown of the extra transfer costs. The transfer costs were sent in
Italian but I have translated and explained everything in this letter.
If you require
further information from me, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Best regards, Susan Ippolito - Office Manager
- Richmond Hill
Travel a division of Manditours Int'l. Inc.
from: Sonia Perigny, Interline & Customer Service Manager, Intair, Montreal Quebec
Susan Ippolito, Richmond Hill Travel. Dated March 12, 2007
Edward Warner Pollock &. Mr John Gallagher PNR: KAUAOB
Your request has
been sent to Lufthansa (since the tickets were plated by LH 220) and we will
keep you Informed of any development as soon as we hear from them. Please note
that notwithstanding the fact we have filed a complaint with the airline
concerned, we would like you to know that it can take between three to six
months to finalise a claim.
Yours very truly, Sonia Perigny - Interline &
Customer Service Representative
from: Jini Israni, Lufthansa, Customer Relations North America dated
March 13, 2007.
Addressed to: Sonia Perigny, Interline & Customer Service Manager, Intair, Montreal Quebec
Re: Mr Edward
Pollock & Mr John Gallagher
This is in
reference to your letter regarding the above mentioned passengers booked on LH471/ 02MAR YYZ FRA and on to VRN. I was sorry to learn that flight LH471
was cancelled on this occasion due to technical difficulties. Please convey our
sincere apologies to Mr. Pollock and Mr. Gallagher for all related
I am sure you can
appreciate that despite our best efforts to operate flights according to
schedule, there are occasions when unforeseen circumstances, beyond our control,
prevent us from doing so. When flights are cancelled our customer service staff
will do their utmost to make alternative arrangements so that passengers reach
their destination as soon as possible. Hence our mutual clients were rerouted
via Rome with AC and AZ on this occasion.
In keeping With
all major airlines, Lufthansa is unable to assume responsibility for the
consequences of such a flight delay or cancellation. We, therefore, strongly
recommend that passengers purchase travel insurance in case of such
eventualities. In the event that they are holding such insurance, may I
suggest that they contact their insurance company in this regard. We would be
pleased to provide them with a letter advising of this flight cancellation to
assist them in this endeavour.
Ms Perigny, I
regret that my response cannot be in keeping with your request, but trust you will
understand our position. We thank you for
your continued support.
Lufthansa German Airlines, Jini Israni, Customer Relations North America
from John Gallagher, Milton Ontario
Addressed to Ed Pollock, Ultimate Destinations,
Oakville Ontario. Dated March 14, 2007
Flight LH471 departure scheduled Friday March 2, 2007 - 5:30 pm
I am writing to
advise of my frustration with the events of Friday March 2 and Saturday March 3.
I appreciate your
help in seeking an adjustment that I feel we are entitled to.
It is my practice
to arrive at the airport well in advance of scheduled take off and as
suggested / recommended, I arrived at Toronto around 2:00 p.m. My plan was to
check in, pass through security and then have a relaxing late lunch in the
After the time
passed when the flight was supposed to leave, the announcements of flight delay started. First approximately 7:00
p.m., then 8:00, and finally 10:00 p.m. before Lufthansa finally cancelled the
The next day,
Saturday, I confirmed the flight and was told I was to be on the flight. Again I
arrived at 2:00 p.m. Saturday to be told I was on standby. Then after much
protesting Bernd J.
Rabich, station manager for Lufthansa tried in
vain to get us on an Alitalia flight. Eventually we got out on an Air Canada
flight to Rome, then 5 hours later an Alitalia to Verona and our transportation
The treatment we
received by Lufthansa was that of 2nd class citizens. We were left to
our own devices and without your (Ed Pollock's) knowledge and info we might
still be at Toronto airport.
The trip became
the vacation from hell. Very stressful and upsetting.
My feeling is that
we are more than entitled to compensation for our out of pocket expenses,
reimbursement for prepaid costs which we did not enjoy. Briefly: Limo expenses:
Hotel nigh: $250.00. 1 missed day of skiing with
Extra meal: $37.00. For a Total of $565.00.
I am not sure what
additional amount might be deemed acceptable for mental anguish etc. A day of
enjoyment that was turned into a day of misery.
But I resent the
deplorable manner in which Lufthansa treated all of the passengers by failing to
correctly advise of the actual circumstances causing the delay for over 8 hours.
Ed, I want you to
know that in no way do I hold you responsible for any of the events. I have for at Ieast
enjoyed skiing, touring and visiting the Dolomites. I hope to return some day.
Yours truly, John Gallagher.
Footnote: Ed Pollock
spoke to Rosso de Gregorio of Mandi tours after returning from the trip and was informed that Mandi
Tours paid for the delayed and missed transfers and received no re-imbursement
for this considerable expense. Ed Pollock and John Gallagher received no
re-imbursement for their additional expenses or losses.
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