The Verdi warning strike at Lufthansa hit the passengers with full force. Lufthansa canceled more than 1,000 flights, and operations at the hubs in Frankfurt am Main and Munich have practically ceased. The airline had previously attempted to rebook travelers but acknowledged capacity is limited.
The airline strongly advised customers who did not receive a rebooking offer not to come to the airports. Because of the strike, “only a few or no” service counters were open there. Transfer passengers without a connecting flight should not fly to the German hubs. There is a risk that guests will not be able to travel there for several hours or days. Restrictions must still be expected on Thursday and Friday.
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The call for a strike is aimed at the approximately 20,000 ground staff. They take care of the handling of passengers, luggage and freight, the employees also maintain the aircraft and ensure that the machines are pushed into the correct positions.
This is annoying for travelers who wanted to fly with Lufthansa on Wednesday. There is one consolation for them, however: they do not have to sit on the damage. “If a strike falls within the sphere of the airline, the airline must provide alternative transport and pay compensation in the event of short-term cancellations,” says Iwona Husemann from the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer advice center.
The legal expert knows that Lufthansa cannot invoke extraordinary circumstances in this case. It could be different if, for example, the security staff at the airport go on strike. On Wednesday, however, it is about Lufthansa employees who want more money. This means that Lufthansa has a duty towards its customers.
If a flight falls victim to the strike, travelers have several options: they can forgo the carriage and have the money for the ticket refunded. However, you can also accept the offer to travel on another Lufthansa flight or to switch to the train.
Lufthansa has often offered this alternative in the past few weeks in the event of cancellations. If necessary, you can also book a replacement flight with another airline and charge Lufthansa for the costs. However, you should set the airline a deadline beforehand to arrange for a replacement transport yourself. In view of the circumstances, this can only be a few hours if necessary.
If the flight is not canceled but is delayed, travelers can also return the ticket and ask for their money back. However, this assumes that the delay is at least five hours. Both in terms of cancellation and delay, travelers do not have to accept a voucher, emphasizes the Berlin travel lawyer Roosbeh Karimi. You can ask for money.
In addition to the refund of the ticket or alternative transportation, travelers are also entitled to compensation under the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation. If the flight is canceled or arrives more than three hours late at its destination, you can ask for compensation. This is between 250 and 600 euros – the decisive factor is the distance.
Internet service providers such as Flightright or Fairplane offer customers the opportunity to enforce their claims against payment of a commission (about one third). If you want to save money, you can also enter your data in the Flugärger app of the NRW consumer advice center and calculate whether you can ask for money and if so, how much.
The app comes with a sample letter. If the airline does not pay, you can contact the arbitration board for public transport in Berlin. Your mediation is free for consumers.
The legal situation is more problematic when subsequent problems arise. You miss an interview or have to stay in a hotel because the plane doesn’t go. In order for the airline to pay in these cases as well, you not only have to prove economic damage, but Lufthansa must also have caused it.
This would be the case, for example, if travelers were informed too late. However, customers also have a duty to mitigate damage, Husemann warns. One must therefore try to postpone appointments and also actively inform oneself about possible postponements of flights.
A common annoyance: You miss your connecting flight. Because the flight from Berlin to Munich is cancelled, you cannot take the booked onward flight to New York. Whether Lufthansa is liable for the entire journey depends on the booking.
“If you have booked a uniform flight service, the airline must also be responsible for the connecting flight,” says consumer advocate Husemann. On the other hand, if you booked the Berlin-Munich route with Lufthansa and then the flight to the USA with another airline, you can only bill Lufthansa for the feeder flight.
In the case of a package tour (e.g. flight and hotel), the tour operator is generally obliged to provide a replacement flight. The new flight must not increase the travel price, says Hamburg consumer advocate Julia Rehberg. And what if you lose valuable vacation days? Suppose you have booked a package holiday and arrive two days later than planned because you had to wait for the new flight, you can reduce your travel price by 100 percent for those days. However, some tour operators argue that airfare costs are higher than hotel costs and therefore only want to accept a smaller reduction. Package travelers do not have to get involved, says lawyer Karimi. If you reduce the travel price, you cannot additionally demand a compensation payment from the airline.