Poor Austrian Airlines Customer Service

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  • Str8Talking

    I very recently had what I felt was a very poor experience with Austrian Airlines; and thought I’d share and see if anyone has found themselves in a similar situation.

    I was transiting through Vienna connecting from an EU to an EU flight with an hour and 10 minutes between the two, in business. Upon landing I went directly to the lounge which was overcrowded and with no free seats available. Given that it was morning rush across the gate areas, I stayed in the lounge, literally standing in front of the information screen waiting for boarding to be announced for my flight, as there was nowhere to sit. With a 10:25 departure, at 10:00 the screen still simply showed a gate number. At exactly 10:10 (I had nothing better to do than stare at the screen in front of me so I knew exactly when this was shown) the status changed to “Boarding”. I immediately left the lounge and reached the gate in no more than 7 minutes where I was greeted by staff who very rudely said I was too late and I missed the flight. The plane was still at the gate and my case had been offloaded.

    The last remaining gate agent directed me to the customer service desk. The agent there simply told me that my ticket was not changeable and as such I would have to book a new flight because it was my fault I missed the flight. I tried to explain the situation to her, that I was following the on-screen instructions from the lounge, and she wasn’t listening to any of it. She decided I was guilty from the offset.

    She quoted me a price to book on a later flight which was €100 more than the online price. She told me I could book online and return back to the desk so she could sort out my luggage and to also re-protect the return flights from my original booking (which of course tied me to booking another flight with Austrian, or lose the entire ticket). I made a new reservation and returned to the desk. She told me she could see the booking but the ticket had not been issued. She spoke to a supervisor and returned to tell me that my bank had declined the transaction as fraudulent activity. I advised her that my bank had processed the transaction and showed her on my phone where the charge was clearly shown. She told me to go away and return in 15-20 minutes.

    I went away, and called American Express who confirmed that the transaction was approved and there was no issue from their end. By the time I finished the call, I received the ticket number. I returned to the service desk one more time to finalise the process. The agent continued to be entirely apathetic during the entire process. In fact, none of the staff showed any empathy or wanted to hear anything I had to say. There was no proactive service or help offered. The customer service agent was more concerned about what she was receiving on her personal phone than to help me out.

    I am willing to accept responsibility for being too used to London Heathrow and the fact that I can take the anouncements on displays at face value – I board when instructed to “Board Now”. At no stage have I actually asked for a refund for the new flight but continued to be disappointed by Austrian’s lack of customer service. In order to learn from this and better understand how Austrian works, I contacted the airline on the day of the event and asked the below series of questions:

    “If boarding did start at 09:55 (30 minutes before scheduled departure), why was this not shown on the flight board in the departures lounge? I departed the lounge the moment it changed to “Boarding” and was at the gate within 10 minutes. Can you please clarify:

    What time did boarding commence for the flight?
    What time did the gate close?
    What time did the message on the flights board in the lounge change from “gate open” to “boarding”
    How long did the boarding process last?
    What time was my luggage offloaded from the aircraft? Was it ever loaded on?
    Was the flight overbooked?”

    I received an initial response a week later simply advising me that they are sorry and that they won’t refund my new ticket – I did not ask for a refund! I responded to this effect and asked them to respond to each of my questions or let me know if they are unable to answer the questions.

    Over three months later and a number of chasers, I got an answer to one of the questions – that the flight was not overbooked. I generally find Austrian’s on board service to be good, and I am extremely put off by their ground services and disappointed by the general lack of customer service.


    @Str8Talking – you complaint can really be summarised down to:

    “are the airlines liable for the information contained on the flight departure boards?”

    sadly, you will need a lawyer to answer that one for you. However, speaking as a person who recently missed a flight (whilst enjoying a lounge) and also suffered financial consequences, I can only let you know what I now do in similar circumstances.

    If the departure gate is not on the boards within 50 minutes of departure, I will find someone to ask.

    If I find myself still not knowing 30 minutes before departure, I will take a 5 second video of the departure board clearly showing the flight status and more importantly time to prove the point if a gate discussion is needed.

    It goes without saying that I now set at least 2 alarms, phone and watch – for every flight. One is set 50 minutes before departure and the second is set 35 minutes before departure.

    A year or so ago, in the middle of the morning rush in Frankfurt, there was not even standing room available in the LH lounges in T1. Therefore, asked the LH lounge staff for the gate and waited there…

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    Well as the information boards have nothing to do with the airline, and they notify you via your boarding pass what time to be at the gate, and at what time the gate closes I would say they have done all they can.

    The issue you bring up should be brought against the airport not the airline.

    Yes customer service should have been more sympathetic, but depending how it was brought up, ie asserting it was their fault, could ruffle some feathers.


    I’m sorry for your experience Str8 and can understand you’re annoyed. My experience of the lounge at VIE, both Business and Senator reflects what you have said. Overcrowded with nowhere to sit. The food and rink offering is very good but hard to juggle a drink and food while standing.

    As for the missed flight, I never look at or rely on the departure board other than to see if the flight is delayed. The boarding pass states by what time you must be at the gate, usually 30 minutes before departure and I aim to be there latest 25 minutes before so I can get priority boarding. Boarding usually starts between 20 -25 minutes before departure. Like Martyn I usually inquire of the desk staff as to the status of the flight / boarding and time to reach the gate. So while sympathizing with you for the cost and inconvenience, and nothing excuses rude ground staff, I’m afraid as an experienced traveler you do share some of the blame. And I say that as someone who has been equally guilty of arriving late at the gate and missing a flight for similar reasons!!

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    Agree with the advice already given. Never rely on the FIDs as ultimately they are not controlled by the airline.

    Use the data on your boarding pass and ask.


    I am sorry to read of your experience as I have had excellent experiences in the past with OS, although it has been a while since I last used them as they have only recently reopened the route to ZA.

    VIE is a very efficient airport but quite busy at certain times and I suppose that it may be over its optimum capacity and you may have been a victim of that. Of course you deserved better, but as others have said it’s not entirely the fault of the airline. Whatever information they provide to the airport operator, there is still a dependence on the airport displaying that information.

    I suspect you may also be up against the Germanic lack of flexibility, I found myself in a similar situation after missing a connection to a longhaul flight at FRA, also partly due to inadequate signage and information. In that case, although they rebooked me, I arrived at my destination over 12 hours late, and fought them for, and eventually won, EU261 compensation. I was just a bit more persistent than they were.

    All I can say is good luck!


    Thank you all for your comments, very much appreciated.

    As I mentioned, I do take responsibility for relying on the information screens which is why I never asked for a refund on the new flight. What I found more frustrating, is the general lack of customer service. With regard to my questions, I would have been happy for the airline to simply say “the boards are not our responsibility” etc, but lack of response or just responding with generic emails after being chased is a disappointment. Nothing new there, of course, in the airline industry. I was just keen to learn and understand their operations for a better experience next time. Similarly, the rudeness of the staff when I tried to get rebooked (there was no confrontation – I simply asked for my options and calmly explained what happened) unfortunately lets down the hard work the cabin crew do.


    I’m afraid you’re up a creek without that paddle !

    Same thing happened to me, albeit with FR and at Dublin.
    I was less than 2 minutes’ walk away, and I missed the flight.
    Wondering what the problem was I left the bar and walked the very short distance to the gate 20-15mins before departure to find the agent about to leave an empty area.
    At the gate, the board still showed “ GO TO GATE” and every other flight either side showed “BOARDING” or “FINAL BOARDING”

    The passengers had been bussed to the aircraft prior to the gate closing , and the aircraft left the stand 15 minutes early.

    She claimed she put out a call. She might have shouted within her vicinity, but there was definitely not a call.

    She had a guilty face, when I remonstrated with her, taking a picture of the board as it still showed “ GO TO GATE” whilst other flights had now moved onto “DEPARTED & CLOSED”
    She had clearly been in such a rush to expedite everybody, she hadn’t hit her little button on her control panel. And so she tried to blame DAA – They said they only went on what the airlines tell them.

    In the end, FR just repeated the same thing……the closing time on the boarding card …….

    In the end it cost me £110 + luggage for a later flight and most annoyingly of all, my original ticket was only £40 return……Learn my lesson the hard way !!!


    I have also on occasion experienced incorrect information on flight screens and in line with other comments I have learned as a practical matter to not trust them. However, to say that this is nothing to do with the airline and that the customer should turn to the airport about these problems is not really accurate in my view. The passenger has bought a product from the airline and is therefore a customer of the airline, not the airport. The airline in turn purchases services from the airport. Therefore, from the passenger’s perspective the flight screens are in fact part of the overall experience in the customer-supplier relationship between the airline and the passenger, and this is especially true with flight screens provided in the airline’s lounge. If a passenger can show that he missed a flight due to incorrect info on a flight screen in the lounge then the only reasonable attitude from the airline is in my view to (i) show interest and concern over this failure in one of the components of its product and to (ii) allow rebooking to a later flight at no cost for the passenger.

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    All Airport information screens are managed by the airport´s Civil Aviation Authorities. No Airline have any control over them.
    I find very helpful the airline’s APP´s because they keep updated status of the flights.

    My experience at VIE Airport has always been satisfactory. I find Austrian Airlines that, in general, has very professional staff.


    I loathe going through Vienna. The security at the gates, the grotty lounges, the tiny gaterooms and the surly staff in the over-priced catering outlets.

    That said, getting to the gate at the time on the BP is the passenger’s responsibility. These days airports are busy and slot-constrained and airlines don’t wait for travellers who show up late.


    I have also on occasion experienced incorrect information on flight screens and in line with other comments I have learned as a practical matter to not trust them…

    Thanks for the warning – I had no idea about this and until reading this thread, have always relied on the screen (usually in a lounge). Although I’ve never had a problem using them – so far. But I’ll be more careful from now on. On the other hand, I’m a nervous type and always go to the gate, and the airport, very early anyway.


    I wonder how many travellers go through the airport not even thinking that the travel boards in the departure areas are not guaranteed to be accurate. G-d help any OAP or non experienced traveller hoping to persuade any departure gate dragon they were relying on the departure boards for accurate information.

    Similar to ‘GivingupBA’ – I had no idea until recently that the departure boards throughout airports, needed an accuracy warning….


    I know we are all wise with hindsight but if there is no boarding light flashing on the departure screens after 10 minutes of when boarding is expected to start I always ask at the lounge reception, if that is applicable of course. In variably they seem to have more up to date information than the screens in the general departure areas. That has worked for me.

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    In my case I contacted both FR and the DAA, and guess what, both blamed each other

    It has to be said, DAA’s response was more believable than FR’s
    If I remember correctly, DAA said that the accuracy of the boards are dependent on individual airlines informing the airport of flight updates.

    Ryanair blamed DAA for not acting on the update, which is ridiculous since ours was the only flight not to change from “Go to Gate “ so it’s clearly the fault with the lassie at the gate, but there is no way to prove it.
    In this example, I’ve only myself to blame because the flight at no time showed delayed.

    The quandary is, when a flight is delayed…..Do you constantly pester the airline staff for updates because according to the airlines (FR) the boards aren’t necessarily accurate?

    And airlines don’t cover themselves in glory when it comes to sharing accurate information……..

    TK at HKG when they lost their aircraft (I kid you not) —“Last Call” when they were still trying to find it, in the vastness of Chep Lap Kok.
    Eastjet’s very annoying habit of cattle penning you into a space when the inbound aircraft hasn’t even landed , on one occasion in Berlin, the board showed “Departed” yet we were stuck on a flight of stairs for near on an hour.

    If airlines managed boarding better and airports created a space that facilitated a human space around the gate area , people might be more likely to have faith in the whole process

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