Nicholas Eckert says he “fully expected and understood” that he’d be charged a penalty for rebooking his Lufthansa flight. But the penalty was so high that he questions its reasonableness. Lufthansa, says Eckert, “really went above and beyond in its extraction of money from me.”
Eckert’s case is a reminder to air travelers to check their flight reservations multiple times before confirming them to make sure that every detail is correct. Otherwise, like Eckert, you could be paying exorbitant prices to correct a date or a name — and airlines get away with charging these fees because they can.
Eckert booked round-trip flights from Washington to Florence, Italy, to take an Italian tour. Two months later, he realized that he had misread the start date of the tour. In order to join the tour on time, he needed to be in Florence the day before he was scheduled to fly there. He contacted Lufthansa to change his flight.
As Eckert explains:
So I contacted Lufthansa thinking that I would have to pay several hundred dollars in penalties to make the change. Given the fact that I had made the mistake, I thought paying a penalty was reasonable.
But I was stunned when Lufthansa told me that the price to change my flight would be $886 (more than I paid for the original ticket!!). This was broken down as [a] $300 seat-changing penalty and $556 to purchase the replacement flight…even though it was the exact same flight with the exact same seating assignment (the only change being the different day).
Eckert posted about his case in our forum, where he asked the forum members whether Lufthansa can charge him fees that seem exorbitant to change his ticket. Our members responded that, yes, it could. Lufthansa’s change fees are standard procedure throughout the airline industry.
Eckert then asked our advocacy team for assistance in getting some of those fees refunded. (Our company contacts section contains executive contact information for Lufthansa.)
Lufthansa’s general conditions of carriage provide that for changes to flight reservations,
Changes Requested by Passenger
Should you wish to change any aspect of your transportation you must contact us in advance. The fare for your new transportation will be calculated and you will be given the option of accepting the new price or maintaining your original transportation as ticketed. … Please be aware that while some types of changes will not result in a change of fare others will result in an increase in price.
… Many fares are valid only on the dates and for the flights shown on the Ticket and may not be changed at all, or only upon payment of an additional fee.
And these terms apply only if the tickets are changeable and refundable, as in Eckert’s case.
Had Eckert caught the error within 24 hours of booking his flights, he could have been charged a lower fee to change the reservation. But once that window expired, he had to pay the difference between the original ticket price and the price at the time of the change. That turned out to be several hundred dollars higher.
Unfortunately for Eckert, there’s nothing our advocates can do for him. As he notes, “I suppose that the lesson is that I should have triple-checked and checked again to make sure I had the flight right. But Lufthansa really did sink its claws into my wallet for making a relatively minor mistake.”