Lufthansa is a wonderful airline that I have become very loyal to after 30+ flights this year. The lounges are great, service is consistent (for the most part), and my close work with Lufthansa in my day job has led to a number of friendships and contacts that will outlast my time in Germany. But every airline has a few bad apples and I ran into one of them today at a ticket counter in Frankfurt.
I was flying to Brussels on an award ticket and left my bmi and United gold cards at my house. While Lufthansa has a strict published rule about only allowing Star Gold passengers into a Senator Lounge who produce a valid Star Gold card, I have found that when you put in a frequent flyer number from the Lufthansa family (listed below), the scanning machines at the lounge entrances recognize your Star Gold status and you are not asked to present a card:
- Austrian Airlines Group
- LOT Polish Airlines
- Swiss International Air Lines
- Adria Airways
- Croatia Airlines
- Brussels Airlines
All the airlines above with the exception of bmi are part of the Miles&More group, but my bmi number on the reservation has always been sufficient in Frankfurt–no card needed.
Today, for some reason, the easy check-in kiosks were not accepting my bmi number, so I asked an agent to manually enter it.
ME: Guten Tag. Would you mind adding my bmi number to the reservation? I forgot my card today but I have the number written down here.
AGENT: Sorry, It is not possible–this is in “X” class [economy award], so you do not earn frequent flyer miles on this ticket.
ME: Yes, I am aware of that, but I need my number entered so I can access the lounge.
AGENT: You need your card to access the lounge. That is the rule.
ME: When you have a Star Gold number from the Lufthansa group associated with the reservation, the lounge check-in system does not ask for a card.
AGENT (scoffing with a sarcastic smile): Sir, you are wrong. You need the card and you cannot get the miles for this trip.
ME (scoffing with a sarcastic smile): Ma’am, you are wrong and this has nothing to do with earning miles. I won’t earn miles if you put my number in the FQTV field–your systems are smart enough to know that an X fare does not earn miles.
AGENT (snarling with an even bigger smile on her face): No. I am sorry. I cannot add the information. It is not possible.
I stared her for about five seconds with a big smile on my face, shook my head, and walked away without saying anything else. She was not an old matron, but a stuck-up girl who did not look much older than me.
After I quickly had my number added by another agent, I felt like going back and rubbing it in her face (because she was so smugly sure of herself), but I saw no good outcome that could come out of it–I was still ticked off. I have cooled down now and think I will see if I can find her next time I am at the airport and attempt to educate her in a kind way. She actually was a very attractive snot.
It was not the misinformation that made me mad–it was the condescending smugness that she was right and I was ignorant that really drove me crazy. But I’m over it…I think.
Don’t you hate it when agents spew misinformation and refuse to even entertain the thought that they might be wrong?
Yup, very annoying. I ran across my first bad-apple RCC agent in HNL the other day. I was trying to do an SDC from a UA HNL-LAX flight to an earlier CO flight (which had one F seat left) and she very indignantly said it wasn’t possible: “We can’t just change you to another flight because you feel like it!”. She didn’t seem to know that elites could SDC at all; it wasn’t simply a matter of she didn’t know that we can now SDC between UA/CO, she had no idea about SDCs! Wow… I just went to the CO gate and had the gate agent do it. Very helpful islander guy. Stupid mainlander RCC agent. 😀
(VERY helpful islander guy: he put me in Y which made me jump to the head of of the EUA list and I got the upgrade! Especially nice since I had only 3 hours in LAX before I turned around and flew back to HNL! I’m on an MR that is a double RT LAX-NRT. At the time of the above incident, I was doing GUM-HNL-LAX-HNL-GUM in one shot: 24 hours in the air in a 36 hour period with a max 3 hr layover anywhere. So F was quite welcome on the HNL-LAX-HNL portions!)
This is the key line in your post: “While Lufthansa has a strict published rule about only allowing Star Gold passengers into a Senator Lounge who produce a valid Star Gold card[…]”
If that’s the published policy, that’s how they are trained and that’s how they should handle it. It’s policy, deal with it. There are many instances of you citing ‘policy’ and throwing it in their faces all the time on this blog.
Just because you’ve found a lounge access workaround doesn’t give you the right to accuse the agent of being “smug” – they probably deal with dozens of people who want to employ workarounds every day, and that’s exactly what you’re trying to do.
Are you sure it isn’t resentment that someone correctly enforced policy and they held their ground and you were inconvenienced that is really driving this post?
@AS: You miss the point–the point is not whether I should have been allowed in the lounge. The rule is the rule and I would have accepted the fact that I would not have had access yesterday had they denied me at the lounge.
But the issue here is her refusal to add my number and her condescending confidence that she could not. She was nowhere near the lounge–remember, she was at the ticket counter. All I wanted from her was to have my number added, nothing else. Surely this was not an unreasonable request nor even attempt to circumvent the rules.
@AS, as Mathew already said in his reply to you, the issue here isn’t the lounge access, per say. Even when you travel on an award ticket your status affords you some (if not all) of the privileges of said status (like extra baggage allowance, exit-row seating, limo transfers in some cases, etc.). It is therefore important (and allowed — even encouraged) to have your number on file. That is all Mathew wanted at that point and he was well within his rights. I am sure that he would have accepted “denial of service” at the lounge had he tried and been rebuffed due to the card rule.
The legendary German customer service at work.
She was wrong in the first exchange but your reply (lounge access) gave her the confidence you didn’t need what you were asking for (because for lounge access she was right you need the card as per rules which you told her you didn’t have).
You should have asked for the FQTV to be there for an OP UP probability!
Anyway… Just use this as an ice-breaker to take her out instead of trying to convince her she was wrong next time you see her.
Keep up the excellent blogging
The job of the lounge agent is to enforce the policy, but not at the expense of quality service. If she really thought the miles would credit on an X fare if she entered your number into the system, she could have entered it, checked to see if you had status, and removed it. Friendly, helpful customer service is much more important for an organization’s bottom line than trying to enforce every little rule.