I was flying on a Miles & More reward ticket issued by Lufthansa, from Beijing to Brussels via Zurich. The time schedule of the flights was perfect, as it would see me arriving in Brussels by 2 PM with a one hour connection time in Zurich. Just enough time to allow me to pick up my rental car in Brussels and drive to Rotterdam to surprise my dad for a 7 PM dinner on the occassion of his 70th birthday.
Web check in was a breeze, and with a carry on bag only, I just showed up at the gate where boarding was uneventful, and I soon settled into my window seat, excited over the purpose of this 48 hour trip.
The flight itself was good, with very attentive flight attendants, nice meals and snacks (who does not love the Swiss chocolates they come round with?).
When deplaning in Zurich disaster struck, with the information screens displaying the connecting flight to Brussels as cancelled. That was the only direct flight to Brussels that day, so what was I to do now? A friendly Swiss attendant at the arrival gate was sympathetic and after informing me the flight was cancelled due to a strike of ground handlers in Brussels she asked me to go to Transfer desk A to work on a resolution.
As panic and disappointment gripped me, I impatiently waited to get through customs and to Transfer desk A. By the time I arrived at the Transfer desk I had texted my brother to forewarn him that the surprise was unravelling and to make plans to go ahead without me. This had been my sole purpose for making the journey!
Ms. Y. Hostetler welcomed me with a smile at the transfer desk and quickly offered to route me via Hamburg to Brussels, where I would arrive at 8PM. I explained the purpose of my trip and that I would miss dinner in Rotterdam if I did not arrive in Brussels before 5 PM. I enquired if I could be rebooked onto the Zurich – Amsterdam flight, scheduled to leave in 30 minutes.
After explaining that she was not authorized to make changes to a Reward ticket, she asked me to wait for a minute to see what she could do. She came back and explained that in stead of going through a mandatory but cumbersome and time consuming procedure with Lufthansa Miles & More in Frankfurt, she would override the system and book me on the Amsterdam flight.
This enabled me to arrive in Amsterdam at 2 PM, leaving me enough time to re-arrange my rental car, rebook my return flight, and pick up a last minute gift for my brothers’ kids.
My trip was saved, my father delighted, and my confidence in Swiss service firmly established at the highest level. While rules and regulations have their place in the aviation industry, it is actions of individuals like Ms. Hostetler that put a human face on the airline and make an already good experience outstanding. Enormous gratitude goes out to her and to Swiss for having empowered her to make such decisions.