I was visiting my four kids in the USA. They all live in different states so this was a seven week trip, the end of which saw the volcano in Iceland spewing ash all over Europe. I was desperate to get back to Sweden and to my husband. I decided to board my flight at Omaha and fly into Chicago and just see if Lufthansa would get my next connection to Munich off the ground. They did. I was left stranded in Munich for a bit before carrying on to Copenhagen, but all things considered I was happier being stranded there than Chicago.
At Omaha, United checked my bags all the way through to Copenhagen so I thought things were going to go smooth. Upon arriving at Chicago O’Hare however, it was a mad dash to catch my Lufthansa flight to Munich. I am handicapped and had ordered a wheelchair to get me to my connection. This poor kid said ‘Hop in and hold on! Your flight is on its last boarding call.’ Omaha had not issued me a boarding pass in advance, but the Lufthansa staff was amazingly fast, friendly, and efficient and they had me boarded within minutes of our skidding arrival to their terminal. Major kudos for how well they handled that. They were anxious to get off the ground as they knew it would get canceled any moment if they didn’t get out of there fast.
The flight was really pretty uneventful given the circumstances. The crew gave out free everything, pretty much, no matter what class we were in. They were very calm and cheerful in spite of all the tension surrounding the volcanic ash cloud which had been grounding flights for days. It was a very real threat as these ash clouds had been known to destroy jet engines in the past. Nobody panicked though, and the crew were making little jokes to relieve any passenger tension.
The seats on this Lufthansa Airbus were very comfy and I had minimal leg numbing. Movies were individualized with the monitor being in the back of the seat in front of us. As with most airlines these days, I was able to select what I wanted to watch and when. Mostly I watched the flight progress though.
The food served was unremarkable, and I really do not even recall what it was. There was too much else to worry about at the time. I believe it was some sort of chicken dish with mashed potatoes and gravy… it is a wonder they served anything at all though, really. All flights had been touch and go for days with the cancellations and last minute go-aheads. Lufthansa did remarkably well to have anything at all prepared for this flight.
After about 8.5 hours, we landed safely in Munich, but late for my connection to Copenhagen. That did not matter though as that connection had in fact been canceled. Here is where Lufthansa really gets put to the test. I had been hearing that they were handing out free Train passes to folks with canceled connections. I went to the ticket desk immediately and was told they were not doing that any more. Boy was I pissed! The problem, as it turns out, was that I was not issued a boarding pass for the CPH connection when I left Chicago. I explained the mad-dash circumstances and pointed out that my bags had indeed been tagged all the way through to Copenhagen. The gal went to her boss, but to no avail. They told me I had to pay my own train fare and then submit it to corporate for refunding. As if…
I decided to hang around Munich in the Lufthansa terminal and hope for the best. I bugged them every few hours for any possible flights to either Copenhagen or Hamburg, which would put me close enough to home for my husband to drive down and fetch me. I was not the only one. Munich Airport looked like a national campground at this point. The staff were irritated at first with me, but I realized this was not AT me, but because they felt helpless to do anything for me. People in the EU really do bend over backwards for the handicapped. The ticket staff wanted to help, but their hands were tied.
The Lufthansa help desk staff gave me vouchers for the bus into Munich & back, plus several attraction vouchers to keep me occupied and happy. I probably should have taken advantage of those, but opted to stay in the terminal just in case something changed. It did.
I was taking a nap on Wednesday (this adventure had begun on Monday 21 April, 2010) on one of the cots supplied by the airport when I was awakened by Lufthansa staff. They actually cam and found me to let me know a flight had been cleared to Copenhagen! WOW! I mean, talk about way above and beyond! I was impressed, and any anger I had been harboring towards Lufthansa vanished in that instant.
So. They hand me my boarding pass and check my luggage. I get through security and make it to my gate. The boarding time comes and goes. Canceled! Apparently the plane that was to arrive from Copenhagen to turn around and go back with us on-board never arrived. CPH had canceled it on their end and Munich had not been told.
Back to the terminal. Tears ensued (I had very little sleep during this whole time and was a bit raw emotionally) – But wait! There is another flight going in 2 hours! Boarding pass issued again, bags changed to reflect the new flight. Back I went through security, fairly skeptical but still hopeful. It turned out that all us stranded folks were issued stand-by tickets instead of real tickets. I played the handicap card with the gate attendant to get confirmed. I got in, I got home. YAY!
I had flown with Lufthansa numerous times prior to this, and had always been pleased with them. This whole volcano ash cloud crisis showed what they are really made of, though. I was not happy at all with the supervisor who declined to give me the free train pass, but the whole rest of the staff were really just amazing. Lufthansa worked with SAS to get us out of Munich as fast as humanly possible, and were just flat marvelous. I will be loyal to these two airline companies forever.