Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Lost in Lagos on Lufthansa

A neighbor here in Accra reminded me that if nothing goes wrong during our travels we won't have anything interesting to talk about at cocktail parties once you get past the weather and jet lag. Perhaps.... Anyways, considering how much extra business Lufthansa might be expecting in/out of Accra this year, perhaps a refresher course in customer service would be advised for their agents in the Lagos, Nigeria airport.

I would like to bring to your attention unsatisfactory customer service experience in Lagos, Nigeria. We believe some compensation should be offered from Lufthansa to make up for its inexcusable lack of basic customer service, which not only inconvenienced us but put us at a certain amount of personal risk.

My wife, Ms. SJD, and I were booked on the February 9, 2007 flight LH 565 departing Accra, Ghana to Frankfurt, Germany via stopover in Lagos, Nigeria. Our final destination, via a connecting flight, was Paris, France. A mechanical problem with an engine was discovered while on the tarmac in Lagos. Two attempts to rectify the problem delayed the departure for nearly three hours. Finally near 1:30AM local time, the captain informed all passengers that the flight was being cancelled. All passengers were directed to disembark the plane for an overnight stay in Lagos, Nigeria. I commend Lufthansa for this decision, however a complete lack of customer service and coordination by the Lufthansa-Lagos on-ground staff continued for the next 24 hours. My complaint follows below.

1. Lufthansa did not have sufficient representation on ground to explain to passengers of what was happening and next steps.
2. The one agent present provided a phone number to contact Lufthansa for further information. When passengers attempted to call it over the next day, there was no answer.

3. Passengers were herded through Nigerian Immigration and had passports (including our diplomatic passports) confiscated because we did not have visas, with no clear explanation of how or when they would be returned.
4. Passengers were boarded onto buses and driven to a poor quality far away hotel in a dicey neighborhood. Lufthansa had failed to notify Hotel staff of our arrival. Staff was caught by surprise and was unprepared for the arrival of stranded passengers at 2:00 in the morning. They did not have room for all the passengers.
5. The following morning, Lufthansa did not make any attempt to update passengers at the hotels of the plan for rescheduled departure.
6. The hotel did not have operating phone lines for passengers to call Lufthansa for flight status. Passengers used personal cell phones instead. Since the phone numbers provided by Lufthansa staff were incorrect or out of date, passengers resorted to calling relatives in Germany for assistance contacting Lufthansa. We were given no resources for these calls to cancel and revise plans and reservations at our final destination.
7. These calls resulted in a raft of unconfirmed rumors about options and an indication that a bus would return passengers to the airport at various times. The bus did not arrive at any of the rumored times and repeated assurances from hotel staff that we would be called with information proved false. At about 5pm, most passengers resorted to hiring taxis to return to the airport, at their own expense.
8. Upon return to the airport around 6pm, Lufthansa managers apologized but clearly had not begun to coordinate the rebooking of passengers. Passports were still being held by immigration. Lufthansa did not even have a list of stranded passengers, or where they were being held in Lagos. This was potentially dangerous, and simply inexcusable!

9. Over the next five hours, Lufthansa chaotically dealt with passengers. The options and story changed frequently and there was no central and authoritative communication to all passengers concerned. Again, rumor and confusion prevailed. At around midnight, we were finally informed that Lufthansa was re-routing a plane from Abuja to pick up the remaining passengers. Passports were finally located and returned less than an hour before flight departure. No one had been fed since a barely edible lunch at the hotel.
10. We finally left in the wee hours of the morning and arrived at our destination 30 hours later than expected.

My wife and I are seasoned travelers and understand that delays resulting from mechanical problems are a reality of travel. However, neither of us I have yet experienced such lack of customer service. So many of these problems could have been avoided by simple leadership and communication on the part of Lufthansa. Lufthansa failed to perform at every given opportunity. As you know, there are options within the Star-Alliance network for travel to Europe and the North America without having to do business with Lufthansa. Passengers deserve and expect much better service from airlines. We hope to elicit a satisfactory response from Lufthansa regarding this matter.
Thank you,

The good news is that our comment is case #961,340 in the online que with Lufthansa customer service.


Leanne said...

Brian, I can't believe you were on that flight! A friend of ours was too- since he travels to Nigeria on business (poor him!) frequently he had a Nigerian visa and was shuttled to Abuja, then BACK to Lagos and arrived in the U.S. a day late with as little customer service as you had, albeit in a different set of screw ups.

Our trip to Germany was the last we hope to make on Lufthansa, from this or any other country.

Sorry you had such a crappy time- no one should have to deal with that kind of garbage.

Brian said...

Ah yes...we had a bit of a laugh when we boarded the rerouted flight from Abuja and saw familiar weary faces. The folks that thought they had escaped, must have been thinking, "what next?"

Fahad said...

i was on this flight on Feb 9th the aicraft Airbus A330-300 registration is D-AIKE named "Landshut". it was disappointing when the captain said "oh dear we would not be able to continue to frankfurt tonite we have the technicians spotted the problem with the right engine. unfortunately we do not have the spare parts here in lagos. therefore we contacted them in Franfurt and the technicians would be arriving with the spare part on todays flight in 18 hours time. We would leave the bags onboard and we anticipated an early departure for 10pm tonight.". I knew exactly what happened,if u need more information contact me.
my e-mail

Brian said...

Yup, that is how I remember it. Unfortuately it was also the last update (or customer service)offered by Lufthansa (in Lagos)during the next 18 hours.

I'm over it now.

Hope it didn't spoil your vacation.

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