After Erik Crow prepays for an upgrade to business class on Airberlin, he finds himself rebooked on Lufthansa in an economy seat — and his luggage goes missing. Can our advocates help him obtain a refund of his upgrade prepayment and reimbursement for his luggage?
Question: I bid on an upgrade of my economy class seat on Airberlin, which sent me an email “congratulating” me and confirming my upgrade to business class. I prepaid 700 euros ($742) for the upgrade to a business class seat. But when I arrived at the airport, I found that my flight had been rebooked on Lufthansa, in an economy class seat.
And on my return flight, Airberlin lost my luggage and didn’t find it for five days. I paid $175 for a replacement bag and contents. When Airberlin finally located my bag, I had to go 36 miles to Miami from Coral Springs, Fla., to retrieve the bag.
I have complained to both airlines about my treatment. Lufthansa merely told me to contact Airberlin, which ignored several emails from me. The only response I received was an email telling me that I would have to send an email to another department of Airberlin.
This is unacceptable. Can you help me get a refund from Airberlin for the upgrade that I didn’t receive and for the cost of my bag? — Erik Crow, Coral Springs, Fla.
Answer: You’re right – it’s unacceptable for Airberlin to ignore your emails and to brush you off, just as it was for them to fail to refund you for the upgrade you didn’t get to use and to lose your bag.
Your paper trail doesn’t indicate where you were flying to, but according to Airberlin’s terms and conditions of carriage for flights to and from the U.S. and Canada,
When a passenger holding a ticket for carriage for a higher class of service between an origin and a destination is required by carrier to use a lower class of service for any portion of such carriage, the amount of refund will be as follows: …
For Round Trip … Tickets: The difference between 50 percent of the round trip fare for the higher class of service and 50 percent of the round trip fare for the lower class of service between the points where the lower class of service is used.
According to this language you should be refunded the difference between half of the total cost of your ticket, including the $742 you paid for the upgrade, and half the cost of the economy class set you were ticketed on by Lufthansa.
With regard to your missing bag, the terms and conditions of carriage provide that
The liability for damage due to delayed performance in the carriage of baggage is limited to … 1,131 SDR [Special Drawing Rights] …
Carrier is not liable for any loss or claim of whatsoever nature … arising out of or in connection with carriage or other services performed by carrier incidental thereto, unless the damage is proved to have been caused by the negligence or willful fault of carrier and there has been no contributory negligence of the passenger. …
A carrier issuing a ticket or checking baggage for carriage over the lines of others does so only as agent.
Since the bag went missing after you checked it with Airberlin, it needs to assume liability for the delay even though you actually flew on Lufthansa. And $175 certainly falls within the 1,131 SDR limit (approximately $1,523).
You might have escalated your complaint to higher-ranking executives of Airberlin using our company contacts, but you asked our advocacy team for help instead.
Our advocates reached out to Airberlin on your behalf. You have notified us that Airberlin has refunded you the cost of your upgrade and the additional $175 you paid to replace your lost bag.