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- BT Plus
- Tried & Tested
- Plan & book
- Tried & Tested
`Back in February three of us had to travel from Budapest to Minsk on a business trip. The route is a virtual oligopoly, Lufthansa & Co fly it along with Polish and Belavia, the Belorussian airline but they fly only 3 times a week so no good for business travel. The price is corresponding, you pay for this 1500 km distance nearly as much as you pay for Budapest – Singapore which is almost 10.000 km. You guessed it, you get a soft drink and a dry sandwich for the handsome fare.
We chose Austrian, a Lufthansa outfit, as it appeared to offer the best connection.
I understand from travel agents, during the winter Austrian often cancels the Budapest-Vienna flight if they don’t have enough passangers (it is only a two hour drive in a slow car) quoting mechanical issues. This is what happened on this cold February morning. We were offered an alternative Lufthansa flight via Frankfurt but this would have landed us 5 hours later than scheduled in Minsk which would have been too late for the meeting with the high level official. We eventually took a taxi speeding to Vienna and caught the connecting flight in the last second.
The usual compensation request filing was done and the airline responded about a month later that we should accept half the due amount as we could eventually arrive on time. After some hesitation we did.
Subsequently, Austrian paid one of us. They claimed the other two payments did not go through because we gave them the wrong bank details. We did not. Nevertheless, we provided the numbers again. This happened around mid-March. Around late April they told us that the payment had been authorized but it would take a while to actually make the transfer because they are flooded with claims. Well, well, well. I wonder why.
We called about ten times since then. We were connected to the Lufthansa customer service centre where they take the claim number, our names and promise that they would investigate the status and would call us back in 24 hours. It has been 24 times 24 hours at the minimum and it is always the same story. I beleive the idea is that you get tired of it and drop the case.
Clearly, the amounts are unsubstantial but the way of treating their customers is no small change. For the price you pay you could expect some semblence of responsibility and customer care, let alone the legal side. Austrian must assume that you won’t take them court or contact Customer Protection for the few hundred euros at stake here.
I wonder if I wish to book a flight next time and when it comes to paying for the ticket I would say I pay you when I come round to it, I have too many bills to pay just at this moment. They would blacklist me. This is what we have done with Austrian.