March 2020 changed my life. Covid-19 temporarily took me quite a bunch of habits, which I felt to be essential in my life. I learned a lot in this time and also changed my mind about things. However, it also changed my thoughts about other topics. Like customer relation management, airlines I love to travel with and treating passengers in a fair manner. I had several dozens of flight cancellations and re-bookings over this period. Most of them were unavoidable, some of them were simply due to economic reasons. However, they differed quite significantly in one point: the way the companies treated me as a customer. I felt it is a good time to recap about the experience I had with different companies during this period. Here is my flight change experience by company. Roughly, the airlines I mention first are the airlines I had the most interaction with.
- Very flexible flight movements
- Most operations and cancellations can be done online
- Quite a lot of rather short notice flight changes
British Airways struggled a lot economically and organizationally during the pandemic. Thus, I also had to handle quite a bunch of flight changes with them between 2020 and 2022. Especially in the first half of the pandemic, many of them were rather short notice, which was really strenuous. However, the flexibility of British Airway was amazing. Very often, a BA-caused flight change allowed you to conveniently change your connection online – to practically any of their connection the same day or on another one. For example, given that the new flight schedule does not allow me to have a very late flight to New York City in March 2023, I decided to go for the very first flight the same day and have more time in the US. Overall, I felt that British Airways did a great, exemplary, customer-focused job. I thus decided to increase their share (and the share of Oneworld flights) in my flight portfolio in the future.
Lufthansa / Miles & More (incl. Eurowings Discover)
- Online option to keep the ticket (not the connection).
- Incorrect legal information given by call-center agents
- EU compensation incorrectly declined
- Withdrawal from already correctly changed flight
- Online changes practically impossible
- Call center complicated
The Lufthansa Group is typically my key flight provider. I am having a Lufthansa Senator status since six or seven years. For the time being, I do not plan to prolong it until the current one is expiring in February 2025. The key reason for that is how Lufthansa and Miles & More treated me, despite my status. I heard several “lies” / legally absolutely incorrect statements from Lufthansa call center agents during these years, just made to protect Lufthansa’s profit. For example, the agents on the line are forced to tell that the European Union passenger rights are not applicable for award flights – they said that to me multiple times. The worst incident was likely when Lufthansa wanted to move my Eurowings Discover flight from Tampa (TPA) one day forward. After calling their call center, they already had re-booked me to a United Business Class flight the same day. Despite I had the ticket already I got a call that they withdrew that and booked me to a Eurowings Discover flight one day after my planned flight day without my consent. Despite me protesting against it, there was no chance to disagree to that.
In general, Lufthansa is very poor in online re-booking. The only option which might be sensible here and there you can do online (apart from confirming the change…) is to keep the ticket in order to fly it another day (which then requires a call for the new booking). Even for me as a Senator / Lufthansa Gold customer, I spend hours and hours in the phone line to catch a call center agent. This is all not in line with what I would name a good customer relationship management.
Eurowings (without Eurowings Discover)
- Very easy online re-booking and voucher
- Efficient call center
- Limited network – re-booking to other airlines hardly possible
A good example that my bad Lufthansa experience is in fact about the key company only and no the group is Eurowings. Yeah, I have to say that there were maybe some too many re-bookings and it was a pain to move them. Eurowings tries to block changing the booking to other airlines (especially outside the LH Group), However, all other experience was very good. They are still offering very flexible options (you can finally more or less re-book to any other flight in the same cabin class and just pay the fare difference). Pulling a voucher in case of a flight cancellation was very easy online and worked out within minutes. This might not have been compliant with the EU Passenger Rights in all cases – but it lead to the fact that I could take flight changes with Eurowings rather easy.
- Easy voucher / rebooking process
- Quick refund
- Late cancellation without compensation
I had two cancellation experiences with Icelandair in the last three years. A 2020 flight from Amsterdam to New York had to be cancelled. The handling was absolute fine with effective processes and quick refunds. In 2021, the domestic Icelandair operations very late notice cancelled my flight from Reykjavic Domestic (RKV) to Vestmannaeyjar (VEY). This lead to quite some trouble. Even though the European Flight Compensation Regulation is valid in Iceland as well, they refused to compensate me. The flight change process, which finally lead to my flight to Egilstadir (EGS), was rather handy, though.
SAS Scandinavian Airlines
- Smooth vouchering during Covid-19
- Refused to re-book to other airline
I had a few flight changes with SAS during and after the Covid-19 restrictions. On the negative side, they refused to change my booking to another airline, when all options for an intended flight from Helsinki (HEL) to Germany via Stockholm (ARN) have been cancelled for an intended travel day. The call center did not feel to be helpful here, the online handling was insufficient as well. In other flight change cases, though, I felt that the SAS processes worked very well.
- Flexible policy (anyway)
- Full online process
- Extended credit
I just had one re-booking experience with Southwest. In that case, I had to move my flights in the USA due to an own Covid-19 infection. Despite this need to change my flight was out of Southwest’s responsibility, their flexible policy gave me a very easy flight change (I could even adjust the routing). This is not part of their Covid-19 time benefits, but in line with their standard offering (depending on the fare, you “just” receive flight credit and no cash refund in case of cancellation – but you don’t loose money). I have to say that I absolutely liked that attitude.
- Overall efficient handling
- Voucher extension
- Limited online option
Before Covid-19 came, I intended to extend my coverage of Spain on Flyctory.com, so that I had a few flight tickes with Iberia. Overall, the handling was reasonable. The call center may be bothering, but overall, their handling was okay. Initially, Iberia vouchers just had a very short validity, but Iberia extended them significantly – so that some of the funds finally ran into my trip to Andorra Airport (LEU).
- Flight voucher issues without formal request
- Difficult communication
- No cash refund
Finally the Covid-19 pandemic also increased the speed in which Chilienean LATAM withdrew from their flight from Frankfurt (FRA) to Madrid (MAD). I finally had to return flight cancellations here. The communication about getting refunded for these flights was very difficult, given that the call center is based somewhere in Spain. The more, I was surprised that I later received vouchers without prior request.
In a posting I published about a week later, I thought about how I feel that the European Passenger Rights should change, especially in regards to make them a really effective tool for travelers:
How I would love European Flight Compensation Regulation to Change
All “classic” blog posts
No reviews – just debating and certain topics – these are my “traditional” blog posts in the categories Just blogging, Just blogging on music and Sports Blogging:
Covid-19 Postings on Flyctory.com
Here are all postings related to the 2020 Covid-19 crisis: