Update: We’re now checked in and have been upgraded as a family to Business class. Thanks to Lufthansa for getting on the case and putting things right, and for everyone’s support.
Twenty-something-hour double changeover flights with an infant of crawling age aren’t something you want to take too often. So when you do, like, say, when you’re moving your home across 9 timezones, you tend to plan ahead. As in, making sure you have a bulkhead seat with a basinet. Even if it means paying more to shuffle flights around and make sure you get there with a shred of sanity intact.
So when you turn up for your 9am flight, and there’s a strike somewhere at the other side of the planet in an airport you’re passing through for an hour, you assume you’ll be somehow accommodated. Maybe there’ll be a slight delay. A change of flight a bit later in the day maybe. You’re flying Lufthansa, and your friends have recommended them. It’s all good.
Unless you find, having shuffled through the security theatre, that the ominous “cancelled” appears just in time for you to arrive at your gate. And then you wait. And wait. And two hours later you wait some more while first and business class customers are individually addressed and taken care of. Without so much as an announcement to anyone else (i.e. economy scum) in the room. As your child screams and writhes and wonders, much like you, what exactly is going on here and why you’re standing stock still in a crowd of people scratching your head.
Three hours later you’re told that there’s another counter that might be able help to you out a little quicker, so you hike over. With the buggy, the kid, the finger-garrotting luggage. And you get ignored and told to wait your turn while five people help out a single old guy and pretend you don’t exist. You stand. And you stare. And you sweat. And you console the kid. And you get to speak to someone, who, while they’re “trying” to address your problem, stops trying for twenty minutes a pop to deal with two other customers who are evidently less hard work.
A couple of hours later you’ve explained how you have two cases, three boxes, hand luggage, a buggy, and an infant without any lactose-free formula or food to last more than a day. You’ve politely declined the separate (enjoy playing pass the infant) leftover seats on a four changeover, four security check flight that will take you thirty-five hours to get to your destination, starting sometime tonight. And the one where you get to change airlines, recheck in your country-moving baggage, and one of you gets to go ahead while the other waits on standby in Copenhagen, with no offer of help at the final destination to somehow get your baggage out of the airport. Mother, baby, two cases, three boxes, hand luggage. Where’s the problem?
Six hours in, you politely, and then not so politely, suggest that some sort of minor upgrade or compensation might be in order given that you’re being offered ridiculous flights with significantly worse seats and endless flight times. And, you know, you actually paid money for this trip, and, erm, reserved your seats a month or two ago. Tears are shed. Not just by the kid.
There’s a brief flicker of hope about an Air France flight. Half an hour later, you’re told it’s full. Naturally. Too late, you’ve already been handed off to a different airline, a different person. Time to go back through immigration and security with all your bags. Time to wait for a bus.
Eight hours later you’re shipped off to an airport hotel by bus, your request for some assistance with your kid’s dwindling food and drink is brushed off with “ask the hotel”, which is miles away from anything resembling a shop. The hotel has nothing, your kid starts choking on the inappropriate food they have, even though you’ve tried to mash it up as best you can. Tough luck on the lactose-free milk, he’ll be ok. What’s a bit of dehydration, malnutrition or explosive diarrhoea among friends?
The best part. They’ve now offered you the same flight you should have been on this morning, only tomorrow. Suddenly this is possible. Eight hours later. After the other enticing options you were presented hours ago.
But here’s the doozie. You get to come back and do the same thing again, after another 5am rise, tomorrow. There might be a strike. You’ll have to wait and see. There might be a ticket for you. You’ll have to wait and see. You might get to fly. You’ll have to wait and see. Your kid might get seriously ill. You’ll have to wait and see, The lease you’re signing tomorrow? Tough luck. The hotel you’re paying for in Edinburgh? Your problem. The car hire paid up? Suck it up.
Have a complaint? Lufthansa would love you to post or fax them about it.
This generous offer is their way of demonstrating that:
Lufthansa regrets any inconvenience to its passengers caused by the strike measures and will do its utmost best to minimize the impacts
They’re just a little reticent about mentioning that this doesn’t apply to you if you’re flying economy. And if you’re merely shuttling an increasingly despondent eleven month old around along with everything you own on a humid Tokyo day, more fool you for choosing Lufthansa. Get your pen and paper out and whack some feedback in the post. It might pass the time while you’re waiting on another possibly nonexistent flight at the airport tomorrow with your kid. Or the day after.
You’ll have to wait and see.