Harassed and threatened by Lufthansa ground staff

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Jun 4, 2018
I was verbally threatened and harassed by Lufthansa ground staff in India (Chennai Airport) while leaving on a different career for their staff missing to collect payment for my upgrade on a flight that I took a few days before the incident. I sent a detailed email to Lufthansa customer relations a month ago. I have not received any response other than an automated message with case ID for a month and half. Today I received an email stating that this case is forwarded to local reservation team.

Below is sequence of events:

Last month, I flew from Chennai to Frankfurt on Lufthansa. While check in, I asked for an upgrade from Economy to Business. Agent informed that it will cost 38,471 rupees and I agreed to pay. He upgraded me and I went on to fly in Business Class.

When I reached Frankfurt, I received a call from Lufthansa which got cutoff in few secs due to technical issues with my phone (no power). I was not made aware that this was related to the issue that the agent who upgraded me forgot to process payment for my upgrade. There we multiple calls on my phone which I could not answer due to my work schedule however there were NO email or Voicemails regarding this issue. I went on with my trip in Europe and returned a day earlier in a different career other than Lufthansa (due to my schedule change and family emergency).

Later that month, I was flying back to USA in a different career with my family (with a kid and elderly). I was approached by a MOB of Lufthansa ground staff confirming that I flew earlier that month to Frankfurt and I did not pay for my upgrade. Little did I know that my payment for the upgrade was not processed by the agent on the day of my flight. I was under the impression that the charge will be processed on my credit card. Chennai team that approached me told me to pay full in CASH. Since I did not carry that much cash, I offered to pay with Credit Card which they mentioned that they can't accept credit card.

Option I was given was to use the credit card with Centrum (Money exchange company) and cash out to make Cash Payment. I was not comfortable with this option as it is against my company policy to cash out from Corporate Credit Card.

Another option I was given was to do a bank transfer from my local bank account to one of Lufthansa Staff. Although I was nervous of doing this option, I agreed to transfer the amount to this account however due to the limitation with the bank that I was trying to transfer from (bank required 24 hrs before I can transfer to a new payee from my account) I was unable to transfer money.

Because of all of this commotion, I was about to miss my flight to San Francisco and had my entire family waiting for me wondering whats going on. I told the lead staff that I have to catch my flight. I had rupees 8000 & US dollars 200 with me. I offered them to him and said he can keep them as partial payment (to catch my flight). He received the payment and wrote on the receipt that "Total INR 8000 AND 200 USD received from me". He asked me to transfer the remaining balance of 18,471 rupees to another staff's personal account which I have not yet done. All these were happening in front of my family.

I have flown Lufthansa many times in the past. This is my very first time, I have come across such a horrible experience due to an error that check in staff made during the upgrade.

After reaching San Francisco, I received a follow-up call from Chennai. Someone who identified him as Lufthansa staff spoke initially. I informed him that I emailed Lufthansa customer relations and I am waiting for their response before I can transfer the money however he insisted that this does not involve lufthansa as it was a personal courtesy from ground staff in Chennai.

Upon insisting that I am not comfortable transferring money to anyone's personal account & before Lufthansa's customer relations response, he transferred me to another staff who tried to use my RELIGION to convince me to pay. He was questioning my integrity and religious belief. It is a shame & unethical that Lufthansa staff is using Religion as a means to get their way. I transferred the money to staff's account due to fear of retaliation.
Apr 3, 2016
This is an interesting dilemma. The payment issue could have been many things including...
1. Some people are running a "scam" at the airport where they are charging you for the upgrade, but not giving the money to the airline.
2. When the payment did not go through, a person at the airport was either charged and/or fired for the mistake. This could have happen locally only without the airline knowing it happened (ie a local supervisor handled it this way).

The reality is that things happen in other countries/cultures that might not happen other places (or at least not be acceptable behavior).
You could pursue this more with the airline customer service. This is your prerogative, but...

If you plan on flying through this airport (or other India airports) in the future, you might want to let it go. If you pursue it with the airline, people at the airport may get punished/fired (or at least find out you contacted the airline). It this happens, you may find that getting through the airport becomes "difficult" for you (lost luggage, delays at security, other things that would be hard to prove are on purpose). You already know that the ground team found you on a day you were not traveling with that airline.

Just my opinion on the situation...
Feb 3, 2017
I'm sorry you didn't wait for a reply to your email inquiry with the airline before transferring the money because transferred money is pretty much gone if this was a scam and, how could it not be given it was transferred to a personal account. I agree that what might happen in other countries can be very different but this all just sounds suspicious in any case.

There is a lot in this I don't understand fully but, personally, I would certainly continue to try to make contact with the airline - perhaps using the contacts for them here on Elliott's contacts page - doing so as carefully suggested in how to best make these approaches to those contacts.