René Seifert

Entrepreneur, Global Citizen, Flat World, Internet, Web 2.0, Innovation, Start-Up

Lufthansa Customer Care – The Rift between West and East

The shifting economic power from west to east is a favourite theme sung by observers of globalization. The most often quoted reasons in favour of the east: demography (young) and growth (high). I would like to add from my own experience another critical one: attitude (great).

I’d like to illustrate this on a small example which happened yesterday during boarding with Lufthansa in Frankfurt. My purpose is both to use this public display as part of a complain which I have filed, but also as an illustration of a broader picture which I see emerging.

When I arrived to my boarding gate B23 for my flight LH 754 from Frankfurt to Bangalore yesterday on February 04th 2011 via direct transfer from Zurich, I requested at the boarding gate an upgrade from Economy to Business Class thanks to my abundance of miles in the Miles & More programme. The German tall guy behind the counter, let’s call him by his initials E.H. said „Yes, if you have miles.“ He went to his computer, went through the menu and replied: „Sorry, it doesn’t work, your ticket class doesn’t allow for an upgrade.“ End of the story – for him. I retorted that I didn’t believe this was accurate, as I had upgraded myself successfully on the TO-sector.

Lufthansa A321 (D-AIR)

I grabbed my mobile phone, called my always super-duper-customer-oriented Lufthansa-agent Vignesh Mohan in Bangalore who has been immaculately serving me in the last 3 years. He immediately picked up and explained to him the problem, he replied that he believed, too, the ticket was upgradable, but he would cross-check in the system and call me back.

Time was running out as I was the last passenger at the gate, the German guy and his female German colleague didn’t bother to even look at not to mention look after me once. Vignesh being Vignesh kept his promise, called me back after 2 minutes from India and confirmed: “The ticket is upgradable.”

What came next is really the point for my anger and the illustration of the different attitudes. I was polite and relaxed, went over to Mr. E.H. with my phone and said kind of: „I have Vignesh on the phone, your Lufthansa colleague from Bangalore, I suggest you both talk to each other in airline-lingo with all your ticket-codes to sort things out.“ He again wouldn’t even look at me, lest try to find any solution. Instead his female colleague stepped up to me and said in a super-annoyed way: “Well, it doesn’t work this way, we would have to call the ticket counter.” – Expectedly my response was: “And why don’t you do it?” She went on with: “Next time be a bit earlier with your upgrade request.” I turned back to E.H. and asked him why he wouldn’t talk to his colleague in India. Brief answer: “I in general don’t talk on a mobile phone.” Wow, that’s a rare mix of impressive and progressive.

Contrast that with Vignesh who was still on my ear and grasped the full sense of urgency of the situation and said: “René, give me a couple of minutes, I’ll sort things out from India.” I don’t know what Vignesh did, but magically after minutes the upgrade went through as smooth as silk. All fine, but I really got annoyed by this pathetic behaviour from the German Lufthansa team and announced that I would complain against him and asked for his name. He wouldn’t even have the balls to tell me, so I had to bent over and read it from his name plate. The grand final of the scene were his good bye-words: “But I just want to let you know that I am not the responsible load manager.” Bingo. This says it all: Zero attitude translates to zero responsibility which translates to zero civilized behaviour.

I do not even want to stretch the terms “customer orientation” too far and I don’t even intend to play my black card being a HON Circle member. This is just not a manner to behave. And being an entrepreneur I am safe to state into Lufthansa’s direction that you simply don’t want anybody like E.H. doing any customer-facing jobs. This was not his one time-failure, it’s an attitude problem and he’ll never get it.

Compare that to Vignesh’s attitude and action, and I am happy to conclude that we need more of the Vigneshs being allowed to play a much stronger role on the global economic stage and replace the E.H.s ideally yesterday. And please nobody tell me that this was – prominent German term – “unsozial”, i.e. not in line with social considerations.

Picture Source: / Andres Rueda



  1. RobRevet
    February 5th, 2011 | 10:09

    As I also work for Lufthansa I would like to comment the story. Indded EH is not to blame for this problem, neither anybody else working at that gate. They work with a check-in program which identifies upgradable tickets. And if that program does not accept that ticket as being upgradeble, they can stand on their heads but never will get an upgrade done.
    They have no other option but to sy “no sorry”. And as they do not have time to bother about this too long as they have other duties to attend -in Germany 2 gate-staff is normal on an international departure, compared to 4-5 in USA or India- they have to continue their work. If Vignesh in India manages to get the problem solved, good for you and good for him. But he works on another IT-platform and has different options.

  2. February 5th, 2011 | 10:15

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Heiko Hebig, Uli Hegge and René Seifert, aMillionLives. aMillionLives said: New Blog-Post: Lufthansa Customer Care – the Rift (in Attitudes) between West and East […]

  3. February 5th, 2011 | 10:19

    Hi Rob, Thanks for your balanced description, point taken. However, I still hold my ground that the attitude of E.H. was outright pathetic, and this shameless display of ignorance is what bothered me way more than the simple “upgrade yes or no”.

  4. David
    February 5th, 2011 | 10:18

    Hey René,

    I have such cases so often, with Lufthansa as well as with Austria. In which travel agency can I reach Vignesh?

    Thanks & best


  5. February 5th, 2011 | 11:20

    Bad experience indeed. I had many excellent ones with Lufthansa, but this shows again that a single employee (or in this case even 2) can ruin the reputation of a company. I am sure, if you filed the complaint with Lufthansa you will get a feedback (and perhaps some miles or so). Usually they take this pretty serious.
    Good luck next time


  6. February 6th, 2011 | 8:21

    @Harald: Indeed bad experience. Altogether, I try in life not to behave like a jerk who bitches around on everything from a high ground of complacency. Overall, my view on Lufthansa is very good as I was also happy to share, e.g.

    On the other hand, given our tools of direct access to a public voice, I believe we should be allowed to point our finger at entirely sub-standard experiences and be aware that big corporations will have to take us seriously.

  7. Dildar K. MALEQ
    March 30th, 2011 | 8:45

    It is great time that you move to Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways great way to travel…in the air with great level of services ;-)

  8. anil kumar singh
    November 16th, 2011 | 4:58

    i am a seaman(ship’s crew).myself travelled from houston to mumbai durging luggage check the lady on counter told that only one luggage of 23kg.would be allowed by this lufthansa airlines and taken $70 as the extra baggage charge i told him that i had a seaman ticket but she denied my request (my luggage wait was 32kg.).iwant to know from the airlines that how much weight is allowed for a seaman because other airlines allow a weight of 40kg. And it is not possible for a seaman to carry only 23kg. of weight when he returns home after a period of 9months because our contract period is of 8or9 please think about us.

  9. Olaf
    November 24th, 2011 | 7:14

    We recently flew with SQ 322, Singapore to London (22 October 2011) and wanted to upgrade our flight with our miles & more miles but the online system and operators have told us weeks until 24 hours before on numerous occasions that we weren’t booked into the correct Economy class.
    We deliberately booked our Y Economy flexible tickets on Singapore Airlines so that we could use our Miles & More/Lufthansa miles to upgrade on that flight.

    After complaining very politely to the Miles&More website they answered but answered with a totally different issue like “Miles not being credited to my account.”
    Even after reiterating that its not about the miles being credited to my account they came back with the same issue.
    I have lost all faith in Lufthansa and their Miles & More program which is rather annoying because we got so many and it’s my national airline.

  10. Stephan
    November 29th, 2011 | 10:23

    Lufthansa as a company is really so annoying me that I can not even express it while still being polite.
    What Rob writes is only another proof of this.
    Of course the employees will also show the companies attitude on many occassions to the customers.

    There is not much more to say to this.