An Open Letter to the Chairman and CEO of Lufthansa

December 23, 2019

Dear chairman and chief executive officer of Lufthansa Carsten Spohr,

I used to think of Lufthansa as a reputable company, but after canceling a flight, trying to get a refund, and experiencing unfair and non-transparent practices, my opinion changed to the opposite extreme.

On November 3rd, 2019, I booked a round trip from Belarus to Canada (booking number: RDWH7G) for my mother. Even though both parts of the trip were shown as refundable on the booking web-form, I decided to upgrade the return trip to Flex (312 EUR), because there was a possibility of her having to cancel it, depending on the situation with the property that she was trying to sell or rent out.

On November 28th, four days (over 100 hours) before the beginning of the return trip, I called the Lufthansa's Customer Service and canceled it, because my mother had successfully rented out the property.

Lufthansa confirmed the cancellation by email. The message contained the following line: "The already issued ticket(s) have been sent to our refund department for further processing."

Problem #1 (lack of transparency).   The cancellation email contained neither the amount, nor date of refund.

I called Customer Service to find out when the refund would be processed, and they said, ‘in ten business days.’ In ten business days, I checked my bank account, but found nothing.

Problem #2 (lack of commitment).   Because Lufthansa's customer service fails to set the right expectations, customers have to contact them over and over again.

I then sent an email to Customer Service asking about the refunded amount and when I could expect it. They replied with: "According to your ticket your refund was lifted on 08.12.2019 so I would advise you to contact your bank to check when the amount will be cleared."

Problem #3 (failure to provide relevant information of value).   Because Lufthansa's customer service fails to answer the question asked, customers have no choice but to continue to contact them, until they get a definitive answer.

I kept checking my bank account but still saw no refund deposited. I wrote to them again, asking: "Can you please tell me the amount that was refunded?" They replied with: "As you have flown the outbound journey, your ticket is recalculated into a One Way Journey, which has a higher value than a Round Trip. The difference in value between a One Way Journey and a Round Trip Journey is deducted from any amount that is refunded back to you. The Cancellation Fee of CAD 250.00 ($) is also deducted from any amount that is refundable back to you. You will therefore receive the balance as a refund once the Fare Difference and Cancellation Fee have been deducted from the amount to be refunded. In order to ascertain the exact amount that was refunded you will need to contact our Colleagues in the Customer Relations Department. You will be able to contact them directly on the Lufthansa Website via the following steps..."

Problem #4 (information misrepresentation).   The information about recalculating my ticket into a One Way Journey was different from what I saw on the booking form, wherein both parts of the trip were presented as refundable with no dependencies between them.

I didn't know the algorithm of recalculation, but it became obvious that the refund amount could have been calculated immediately and sent to me in the cancellation email.

Problem #5 (bouncing customers from department to department).   Lufthansa's customer service redirected me to their Colleagues in another department.

On December 15th, I sent an email to their Colleagues in the Customer Relations Department asking the same question regarding the amount to be refunded to me. Their response was: "Thank you for your continuous correspondences in regards to your refund request. Kindly be advised that the refund has already been process on the date of December 7, 2019, an amount of EUR 73, 88 on the original form of payment..."

Problem #6 (disrespect).   The Colleagues from the Customer Relations Department used mild sarcasm or what I perceive as mild sarcasm (thank you for your continuous correspondences) against me.

73.88 EUR refund? What was the point of paying 312 EUR for the upgrade to Flex?

Problem #7 (information misrepresentation).   Lufthansa misled me into purchasing an upgrade to Flex and then refunded 73.88 EUR—four times less than 312 EUR that I paid for the upgrade.

Saying that I was confused would be a severe understatement.

Problem #8 (unfairness).   Lufthansa offered me an option that made no sense, considering the business rules they apply to cancellations.

In my last email, I asked how the refund was calculated. Lufthansa sent me the following response: "Kindly be advised that the refund was process according to the fare conditions. If you wish to have more information about the refund, please contact our reservation department via the Lufthansa website or via the phone number available on the contact list."

Problem #9 (disrespect, bouncing customers from department to department).   Lufthansa provided a generic response and redirected me to yet another department.

As of today (December 23rd), I haven't received any refund.

Problem #10 (?).   Although the Customer Relations Department told me that the refund was processed on December 7, as of today (December 23rd), I haven't received it.

Most companies like to say that customer is king. "It’s time to wake up," argues Gerry McGovern. "Forget monarchy. The customer isn’t king anymore. The customer is dictator. Highly demanding and ruthless, unsparing in their criticism. They give loyalty only when it has been earned by consistent, high quality service." It seems, however, that Lufthansa has tamed the dictator by disrespecting customers, wasting their time, bouncing them between departments, providing generic responses, setting wrong expectations, and so on. Information misrepresentation and a lack of transparency seem to be the key challenges facing customers who book trips and interact with Lufthansa's Customer Service.

I insist on receiving the refund according to the information presented to me, when I purchased the ticket, and would greatly appreciate your help on this matter, before seeking help from Canadian and European consumer protection organizations.


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