angryatlufthansaSome higher force really does not want micke-midlife to run a marathon right now. That higher force here is less of an abstract spiritual nature, but rather made of metal and flying high in the sky. Too many dependencies on unreliable systems prevented getting to that daring starting line in time.

In short, this experience sucked.

The Hamburg Marathon is on this Sunday, 25.04. The distance from Helsinki is a tad more than 1400km, a bit too far to run there, but being in control of your own direction of movement would be a more reliable way to arrive there than flying nowadays. In case you get a last minute vibe and you want to run there, let me know, I can provide you with a spot in the starting field.

The ash cloud just made way to air traffic again (or was downgraded due to economic pressures) and one of the loudest critics of airspace restrictions, the Lufthansa airline is scoring rather low on crisis management. Providing to customers (1) almost no planning horizon, (2) no options, (3) bad execution and (4) no goodwill.

1) The flight from Helsinki to Germany was unsure for all the ash cloud days during which the Helsinki airport was closed. In order to manage risk we booked a ferry to Sweden to drive down to Germany. While we got closer to the day and hour of departure and the Helsinki airport still operated not at all or for a very limited time window during the day, the message remained the same “the flight is scheduled, please check whether its still on and on time before you leave to the airport”. What kind of planning horizon is that in times when cancellations were the rule and a scheduled flight the exception from it? Alternative travel plans in most cases require a decision much earlier than “before leaving to the airport”. In our case we had to decide at 4 pm the day before. And we decided the wrong way round, because:

2) Lufthansa leaves their customers no options. Whereas other airlines (e.g. Finnair) allowed their customers to cancel the flight and ask their money back a couple of days ahead due to the insecure flight situation, Lufthansa only allowed rebooking or money back of flights THEY canceled … a couple of hours, minutes, seconds before … or after planned departure. No planning time horizon, no option, there it’s good to tell the leisure traveler (who’s in 95 % of cases cost sensitive compared to business travelers where the company pays) to make risk mitigating travel plans.

3) As we arrived at the Helsinki airport this morning at 5:50 am - our flight was scheduled for 7:05 am - we observed long, very long queues. We had checked in already, so we thought we could skip ‘em, unfortunately it was the baggage drop-off queue. We tried to stay calm, there were others on the same and earlier flights around us as well. Trouble was that the bags didn’t move much on the conveyor belts and there were only two desks open. No one prioritized the queue according to flight departure. So it happened that the baggage check crew called the gate as the people in front of us stepped up to the counter and the response was: no more bags checking the flight leaves. Of course, the ground crew being another company just shrugged and said it’s Lufthansa’s fault and pointed to the ticket counter. There was another 3-4 hour queue…

4) Instead of quite angry at that point stand modestly in an other queue just to get humiliated by an overstressed ticket accountant, calling Lufthansa’s hotline directly seemed a better choice. Of course the local hotline was cut off right away. The German hotline replied but played the “yes, I can sell you a new ticket”-game and refused to do any changes to the existing ticket at reasonable cost. All argumentation about the need for flexibility in non-normal situations met deaf ears. Talking to a wall had been more satisfying, since the wall doesn’t reply as if you’re stupid.

Business class seats to Germany would have been around 1000 per person, including queen and princess, this would just have been a bit too much. Ferries by now were all fully booked, so getting to Hamburg in time didn’t look too promising. And if that hasn’t been enough, the little princess threw up at the airport, so did I an hour later, some form of stomach flu got us as well.

Better going home and getting some sleep.

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