United Airlines Passengers are losers according to Lufthansa

by: Juergen T Steinmetz |

“The Way the Earth Connects” according to Star Alliance

It was March 3, 2023 when the United Airlines Mileage Plus 3 million flyer and lifetime 1K passenger approached the Gold lane counter at Frankfurt International Airport. It was the Lufthansa/ Star Alliance Transit Counter in the international section of the airport, known as “Z” terminal.

The passenger was Juergen Steinmetz, publisher of eTurboNews.

Here is my story:

I just arrived at FRAPORT after a long connecting flight from Honolulu via San Francisco. I was facing had a 5 hour wait in Frankfurt to connect on Lufthansa to Berlin, the last section of my journey.

I was looking forward attending the ITB trade show in the German capital, and my stay at the Grand Hyatt Berlin.

I arrived after experiencing United Airlines Polaris service, one of the best business class cabins on transatlantic flights.

When I noticed the long layover in Frankfurt just minuted before I boarded in Honolulu two days earlier, I asked the United agent to change it. She said it was a little late, and I should simply approach the Lufthansa transit counter before clearing immigration in Frankfurt. She added: “It should not be a problem.”

26 hours later in Frankfurt and a little tired, but in a good mood I approached the Lufthansa agent working at the Gold, First / Business Class lane at the transit counter in the international Z-terminal at FRAPORT.

I smiled and joked in German. “I am an old tired man arriving after two nights on a plane. Can you please help me to get on an earlier connecting flight to Berlin? “

Hoping for a smile back the agent lectured me (not smiling): “As you can see this is a Lufthansa transit counter, and not a United Airlines ticket office. We only assist our own passengers.”

I was stunned, and she added: “Since you are showing me a United Airlines boarding pass, you have to contact your airline for any changes. We cannot help you, we don’t even make money on your ticket.”

I pleaded: “I am a 1K United Airlines customer what makes me Gold with Star Alliance and Lufthansa – similar to Lufthansa Honorary Circle. Would you at least take a look at my reservation? After all I am asking to change a Lufthansa segment and not a United flight.”

The agent seemed to be annoyed and said: “I don’t have to, because I see your United Airlines boarding pass. If you were a member of Miles and More and if you had a Lufthansa ticket we get revenue for, may be there was something I could do, but in this case I can’t.”

I could not believe this type of response and asked nicely: “May I have your name?”

The Lufthansa agent responded with a clear “No.”
She immediately covered her name tag.

I continued to ask: “May I talk to your supervisor.”
Lufthansa Agent: “I have no supervisor – I cannot help you any further.”

I walked away and approached an agent who was directing passengers wanting to approach the Z14 Lufthansa transit counter.

“Excuse me, who is the station manager or supervisor?” The agent responded in silence and in just pointing at the Lufthansa agent who was working the economy section of the same transit counter. He sat two empty chairs to the left of the frustrated agent I just dealt with.

Since there was also no one in line, I decided to give it another try. I approached the supervisor. He was reading the newspaper and felt troubled to be bothered by anyone.

At the same time the lady from the Gold line next to him whispered something into his hear. They both laughed at each other. After that and amused the agent told me without listening to my question. “As my colleague already told you, no one at this counter will help you or talk to you any further. Have a good day.”

I again asked for the agents name. This was again met with silence.

Wow! Perhaps I was still used to the Aloha spirit at home, but the journalist in me wanted to document what I just experienced. I took some photos after I walked away from the counter and sat down to make some notes.

Within a minute two Frankfurt Airport security officers followed by two German Federal Police officers with machine guns came running towards me.

They asked me to delete the photos I took from my phone.

I showed them my press credentials and explained I needed the photos for an article. The officer said any photos that would show a face cannot be taken, unless I have permission. He added I should know this as a journalist.

When asked again for the Lufthansa agents name, the business like and friendly police officer said he could not assist. Steinmetz handed his Phone to the officer who deleted some of the photos he found offending.

In the meantime the “real” Lufthansa supervisor joined the conversation. She was a pleasant lady trying to reason. She said the gentleman I talked to at the counter was not a supervisor, but she was. She offered to look at my ticket.

After all this I did not want to have anyone do me a favor.

I was disappointed about this treatment and wanted to tell the world about it. After all Germany is also my country of birth, and this is not good.

I decided to end this situation, cleared immigration and proceeded to the Lufthansa Senator lounge. I sat there for the next 4 hours watching other flights to Berlin depart.

Stranded in Malta

Just 4 months earlier I was stranded in Malta due to a Lufthansa strike. I had a full fare Lufthansa business class ticket for a flight Malta – Frankfurt- San Francisco. The only part on United Airlines was from San Francisco to Honolulu.

Stranded at Malta airport at 4.30 am on November 6 I was not allowed to contact the Lufthansa Senator line. I was told, this line was only for premium Lufthansa Miles and More members having a premium status, and not available to United Airlines passengers, regardless if they fly on Lufthansa or not. I was also told Business and First Class passengers on Lufthansa, unless they have a Status with Miles and More have no access to a separate priority phone number. At that time I was also told Star Alliance has no influence over access at airports, but I could visit the lounge.

This was after being on hold for several hours and ending up in a Philippine call center only to be told to go to the Lufthansa website.

When pulling up my itinerary on the Lufthansa website, it said: “Your reservation is cancelled, click here for alternatives. When clicking for alternatives it says, we don’t have alternatives and please contact the call center.”

I went back to my hotel and enjoyed two more days of Malta hospitality on my dime of course.

Even though United Airlines had little to do with my ticket, I decided to call the United Airlines 1K desk. They thanked me for my loyalty to United and resolved the issue within minutes. They re-booked me on a Swiss flight to Zurich and connecting to another Swiss flight to San Francisco.

After the Frankfurt incident, I also called the United Airlines 1K desk. United agents confirmed they don’t like to communicate with Lufthansa agents very much. Confidentially I was told about some horror stories confirming how rude and non cooperative Lufthansa agents had been even to United Airlines management for years.

I reached out to Lufthansa customer service, and to Lufthansa media relations. There was no response.

I also reached out to Star Alliance customer service and media relations, only to receive a generic email asking me to contact United Airlines Mileage Plus.

Judging from what I experienced, Lufthansa has by far more serious issues than constant ongoing work strikes, cancellations and delays. They employ frustrated associates who no longer care.

This can be a dangerous situation even for a company by the size of the Lufthansa group.

After all as Germany’s national airline with such a glamorous history has a higher responsibility. Lufthansa paints an image for the German people, the country and specifically for German hospitality that is counterproductive – and this becomes personal.

What happened to Star Alliance?

Star Alliance apparently is only based on perception, lounge access and interline baggage agreements. There is no action when it comes to situations like this.

Star Alliance slogan is: “The Way the Earth Connects”

Star Alliance is the world’s largest global airline alliance. Founded on 14 May, 1997, its headquarters are located in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and Jeffrey Goh is its CEO.

As of April 2018, Star Alliance is the largest of the three global alliances by passenger count with 762.27 million, ahead of both SkyTeam (630 million) and Oneworld (528 million).

Full article: United Airlines Passengers are losers according to Lufthansa
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