Reimbursement for rental car shared with 4 other passengers after Lufthansa cancelled flight

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Jun 2, 2018
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#1
My Lufthansa flight from Lyon to Frankfurt was cancelled as I was waiting to board on the evening of May 13. I joined a long line to rebook my flight, and eventually a staff member came to tell us all to find a hotel for the night as they had no alternative flights for us, and to wait until further notice.

In the line I met 4 other random passengers from the same flight who all had urgent matters to attend to the next (Monday) morning in Germany: I needed to catch a flight back to the US, a school teacher needed to get back to her students, a consultant had an important presentation... We decided to rent a rental car together to drive through the night back to Frankfurt. The rental car company could only charge to one card though, so I volunteered to charge the full amount to my card (it was a hefty 800 EUR, but I was hoping since there were 5 of us, it would be easier to claim the amount back from Lufthansa, given that we are saving them the cost of reimbursing for all of our hotels and return flights. After doing more research at home, I feel really naive thinking Lufthansa was actually going to be reasonable and empathetic about this...)

The next day, I emailed Lufthansa explaining the situation, and they sent back an email saying they can't proceed with the claim unless I obtain a Power of Attorney from all the other passengers. I have the other passengers' contact info but it would be extremely difficult to obtain a POA from every person. I also don't think it's really necessary because the claim amount would only be reimbursed to me, not the other passengers.


Worst part is, I can't even get one word in with Lufthansa now as they have my claim on file, and when I email them I get back the exact same templated response regardless of the content of my email, stating that I need the POA documents. No luck on the phone either, the woman who answered literally cut me off while I was trying to explain the situation, restating the POA point.

As for the cancellation reason of the flight - there was no info given to us by Lufthansa, but I found out from another friend who boarded a Lufthansa flight from Lyon -> Munich that same evening, that their pilot announced there was an air traffic controller strike at the Lyon airport. (Somehow they got lucky and the flight was able to leave, 3 hours after ). I found a notice on the Lyon airport website posted 2 days prior to the flight, giving notice of the strike action (https://www.lyonaeroports.com/en/media/news/a-notice-of-strike-action-20180428), but Lufthansa of course did not inform any of its passengers.

Do I have any alternative courses of actions here? I looked on the Lufthansa Execs page but the first two contacts are only for North American customers. Should I directly go for the CEO? Any help you can provide here would be very much appreciated!!
 

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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#2
When a flight is canceled, the airline has one of two options- put you on the next available flight or refund that portion of your ticket. Once you canceled your flight- Lufthansa’s obligating ended and all they owed you was a refund for the unused portion of the ticket. They don’t owe you for the car rental if they provided you with a refund of that piece of your flight.

Have you received the credit to your card from the airline for the canceled ticket?

What was the reason for the flight cancellation? You might be able to file an EU261 claim. You should get some reimbursement from that and then the other 3 passengers should repay you their pieces of the cost of the car.

Here is info on how to file:

http://www.elliott.org/blog/make-airline-pay-eu-261-claim/
 
Jun 2, 2018
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#3
Hi Neil,

I haven't received any sort of compensation for the cancelled flight yet. The cancellation reason I believe was an air traffic controller strike, but there was notice from the airport 2 days prior (I provided some more details in my previous post).

In your opinion, do you think trying to claim the car rental expenses is a lost cause then? I understand it's not in any written rules, but was hoping that since the value is somewhat equivalent to what they would have reimbursed (the staff at the airport did announce that Lufthansa would cover the hotel costs for that night), that an exception could be made.

The alternative then I guess is that all of us file the EU 261 claim separately, but there is a risk that Lufthansa would deny all the claims under the 'extraordinary circumstances' clause. So just want to make sure there are no better alternatives before I go the ticket refund + EU261 claim route.

Thanks in advance for your advice!!
Jenny
 
Jun 2, 2018
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#4
Also, just wondering whether the fact that Lufthansa couldn't offer any solutions for the 'next available flight' counts for anything? Is there a time frame that they should provide the 'next flight' options by? I was actually never contacted before I reached out to them myself the next day, after arriving in Frankfurt..
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#5
EU 261 generally does not apply to ATC strikes. It was likely that the airline did not cancel the flights because strikes in France get cancelled, postponed, shortened... maddeningly random.

Truly the air traffic control strikes in Lyon is something that the airlines had no control over.

If LH refuses to pay under extraordinary circumstances will the other passengers reimburse you?

The power of attorney issue sort of makes sense, one person could be dishonest and try to claim additional compensation.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#6
One needs to ask for exception before incurring costs. The hotels are at contracted rates — the places I have been put up are no more than euro 80 a night (like an Ibis) — add the what 20 or so euro dinner voucher and maybe 10 for breakfast.

So putting the group of 5 up in hotel with food would have cost less for the airline than the rental car of 800 euro. You already paid for the airline ticket.

And as you mentioned one flight went out later that night — the Lyon to Munich three hours later — this is why the flights were not straight out canceled. The ATC strikes in France are so unpredictable even when announced.

You can try to file for EU 261 but from what I have read they do not cover ATC strike.

Was there any travel insurance.
 

Carrie Livingston

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Jan 6, 2015
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#7
You should receive a refund for the cancelled flight. Since it appears you haven't at this point, I would use our company contacts located at the top of the page and begin your request for refund. Start with customer service and then move to the primary contact if you don't get your refund. Wait at least a week between correspondence and don't email everyone at once. We have suggestions for writing on main company contacts page. If you would like to post a draft of your email prior to sending please do so but remove any identifying information since this is a public website.

I do not believe that you will get reimbursement for the car rental. As @Christina H questioned, have you received any money from the other passengers?
 
Likes: Neil Maley

mmb

Verified Member
Jan 20, 2015
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#8
@jsstravel — did you and/or the four others actually cancel your tickets or just leave? Since the flight did indeed leave that day, if you did not cancel then you are probably marked as a no-show and have lost any unused ticket value.
Unfortunately, when one becomes focused on solving a travel problem, one frequently does not follow the required protocol.
It is very unfortunate that airline rules allow them to just string passengers along with the promise of the ‘next available flight’ solution. By being proactive in getting to your destination, you most likely did not follow the protocol, as loose as it is on their side.
 

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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#9
If it was due to the air controllers strike I also don’t believe EU261 will apply.

However- you need to write as Carrie suggested to the airline for a refund of that piece of your flight.

It will not hurt to ask for reimbursement for the car since this was an unusual circumstance. The worst they can say is no.

But I think your fellow renters need to reimburse you for their share of the rental. You should never assume you can do something like this and will be reimbursed- you needed to ask at the time and get it in writing that they will reimburse you.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#10
Mmb according to the op and flighaware the May 13 flight from Lyon to Frankfurt. Lyon to Munich did depart late. So hopefully there will be credit for the unused flight.

ATC strikes in France tend not to be 100 percent strikes — as in the tower is empty. There may be bare or reduced staff. And of course not just flight departing or arriving Lyon are affected. Any flight that passes over Lyon or its airspace relies on its ATC.
 

mmb

Verified Member
Jan 20, 2015
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#11
Well still wondering. If they the five never cancelled their flight, then the airline did indeed book them on next available flight and so they were no-show?
Still wondering if the five needed to cancel or could just go about their business and expect a refund.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#12
mmb has posted a good question. Sometimes when there is a cancellation the airlines automatically rebook people — that happened to me last year. Other times I have had to stand in a long line to rebook. Usually the line problem happens when the cancellation is close to departure time.

But it is a valid question, did the travelers inform the airline at any point prior to leaving, in case there was a rebooking made in their name.
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Apr 3, 2016
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#13
Before it gets to be even longer since the incident, you should contact the other people in the car and have them each pay you 1/5th of the cost. Then they can each try for reimbursement. And if the airline does refund everyone’s flight, that might cover the cost for each of you.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#14
This is so annoying, I'm sorry it happened. Airlines "never" pay for things like car rentals, no matter how logical. But - why not use our Company Contacts to see if you might encounter a sympathetic executive. Housing and feeding five people would be about even with the your rental car cost I think. The question of you cancelling the flight is a good one, but LH officially told y'all to go find a hotel. So they cancelled "your" flight. Write a polite, concise letter and run it up the flagpole. I'm suspecting that you don't have contact information for your fellow passengers, so you're really stuck.
 
Jun 2, 2018
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#16
Thank you everyone for your responses! Really appreciate all your thoughts and support for this stressful situation...

To answer the question of rebooking - I did not get rebooked (at least I didn't get any notification whatsoever from Lufthansa.) I notified them via email the next day after arriving in Frankfurt, and mentioned that the 5 passengers in the car don't need to get rebooked as we have already reached our destination.

The impression I got though, was that Lufthansa wasn't anywhere close to being able to rebook everyone, hence the staff telling us to find a hotel for the night as they had no alternative flights available at that time. If there was better assurance that we could get on a flight the next day, we would have not went the car rental route.

In retrospect we should have got written permission from Lufthansa first, did not realize reimbursement was only limited to certain categories, so definitely a lesson learned for the future.

As for refund - this flight leg only costed a bit over 100$ USD, so it won't be nearly enough to cover all the costs. I'm glad I didn't miss my return flight back to the US though, as the return flight and the lost time at work would have been even more costly... I reached out to the other passengers and discussed the alternatives proposed here. So hopefully I'll hear back from them, and will keep you guys posted on how it goes!

Thanks,
Jenny
 
Last edited:

Neil Maley

Moderator
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Dec 27, 2014
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#17
Jenny, I think that is going to be your problem. You may have been marked as a no show if they rebooked you and in that case aren’t entitled to a refund of the airfare and certainly not for reimbursement of the car.

You needed to have canceled the flight with them. At the time you all decided to rent the car each of you needed to contact Lufthansa, told them you needed to cancel and asked for a refund of that piece of your ticket. That’s all
they owed you.

When something like this happens, the airline has to do one of two things- rebook you on their next available flight or provide a refund. If you take the refund, the airline obligation ends

All they owe you is for the return flight IF you canceled. Write to them and find out where the money is for the canceled flight.

You need to get reimbursed from your fellow travelers.