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COMPLAINT: Air Berlin - overcharged twice at boarding

 
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  #1  
Old Mar 23, 2009, 3:42 PM
WorldIsMyHome WorldIsMyHome is offline
 
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On 5/31/2008, I’ve bought an electronic ticket for the itinerary JFK – Dusseldorf – Moscow DME – Dusseldorf – JFK. I paid a full price for the ticket, around USD 1,400.

For no fault of my own, during this travel I was asked to pay additional fees under the threat of refusing the boarding.

1. When I was boarding the airplane in Moscow DME on August 15, 2008, I was forced to pay 50 EUR for what the agent called “extra luggage”. I specifically bought the ticket with the allowed baggage of 2 bags @ 23 kg. Because of that, I paid a higher price for the ticket. Yet, I was asked to pay additional 50 EUR even though my luggage weighed much less than 2 x 23 kg.

2. When I was boarding the airplane in Dusseldorf on August 18, 2008, I was forced to pay 25 EUR “for the lost paper ticket”. As you can see on the attached copy of my electronic ticket, I was issued an electronic ticket, and no-one ever asked me to bring any paper document. The customer service clerk at the customer service desk, D.Evers, was very rude and unprofessional. I had no choice but to pay EUR 25 because otherwise I wouldn’t be allowed to board the plane. Also, at that time, I called the Air Berlin customer service hotline, and the agent at the hotline, who gave her name as Lohram, assured me that I would be reimbursed this money. Yet when I later called the Air Berlin customer hotline, the agent refused any reimbursement and advised me to send you an e-mail complaint. The e-mail address she gave me is dysfunctional ([email protected]), and there is no contact information, except phone numbers, which I've already unsuccessfully tried, on the Air Berlin web site.


I am very disappointed with my experience with Air Berlin - to the point of never flying with them again.
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  #2  
Old Mar 23, 2009, 7:20 PM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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It is nearly a year... did you think of writing a letter of complaint or filling in the complaints form which is on their website under Company (Contact Us). You can then select compliment or complaint and file your complaint.
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  #3  
Old Mar 23, 2009, 10:33 PM
WorldIsMyHome WorldIsMyHome is offline
 
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I was trying to find the way to complain in the U.S. I have little faith in getting anything from a European company when a complaint is filed from the US.

But thanks, I'll try.
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  #4  
Old Mar 23, 2009, 11:25 PM
Leatherboy2006 Leatherboy2006 is offline
 
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Being a European Carrier their complaints are probably only handled at their headquarters in Europe, just like a USA's carrier would be handled by their USA headquarters, such as Chicago for United, Dallas for Southwest etc.
Good luck
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  #5  
Old Mar 24, 2009, 12:15 AM
PHXFlyer PHXFlyer is offline
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I did some checking on the Air Berlin website.

Originally Posted by WorldIsMyHome View Post
On 5/31/2008, I’ve bought an electronic ticket for the itinerary JFK – Dusseldorf – Moscow DME – Dusseldorf – JFK. I paid a full price for the ticket, around USD 1,400.

For no fault of my own, during this travel I was asked to pay additional fees under the threat of refusing the boarding.

1. When I was boarding the airplane in Moscow DME on August 15, 2008, I was forced to pay 50 EUR for what the agent called “extra luggage”. I specifically bought the ticket with the allowed baggage of 2 bags @ 23 kg. Because of that, I paid a higher price for the ticket. Yet, I was asked to pay additional 50 EUR even though my luggage weighed much less than 2 x 23 kg.

2. When I was boarding the airplane in Dusseldorf on August 18, 2008, I was forced to pay 25 EUR “for the lost paper ticket”. As you can see on the attached copy of my electronic ticket, I was issued an electronic ticket, and no-one ever asked me to bring any paper document. The customer service clerk at the customer service desk, D.Evers, was very rude and unprofessional. I had no choice but to pay EUR 25 because otherwise I wouldn’t be allowed to board the plane. Also, at that time, I called the Air Berlin customer service hotline, and the agent at the hotline, who gave her name as Lohram, assured me that I would be reimbursed this money. Yet when I later called the Air Berlin customer hotline, the agent refused any reimbursement and advised me to send you an e-mail complaint. The e-mail address she gave me is dysfunctional ([email protected]), and there is no contact information, except phone numbers, which I've already unsuccessfully tried, on the Air Berlin web site.


I am very disappointed with my experience with Air Berlin - to the point of never flying with them again.
Unfortunately the baggage fee was justified. As highlighted in your post you flew from the US (JFK) via Dusseldorf to Moscow, then from Moscow back to Dusseldorf where you remained for three days and then back to the US. The baggage allowance on the trans-Atlantic sector is 2 pieces up to 23kg (about 50 lbs.) each. On your return trip since you had the stopover the flight from DME to DUS would have been treated as intra-European since you were not immediately connecting back to JFK. As such Air Berlin's checked baggage policy only allows up to a maximum of 20kg per passenger.

There are higher allowances for business class tickets but $1400 USD for a rond-trip from JFK to DME with a stopover in DUS doesn't sound like a business class fare. I cannot say what the fares were a year ago but for the same ticket now it is over $2600 USD.

As for the "lost paper ticket" fee when you had an e-ticket, you should have initiated a dispute with your credit card issuer after 30 days if Air Berlin failed to reverse the charge. Of course it is too late to do so now as most banks and credit card companies have limits on when you can dispute charges.
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  #6  
Old Mar 24, 2009, 7:50 AM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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If the airline sold the itinerary as a single ticket, it is ridiculous to to vary the allowances throughout the journey, even where there is a stop over. If the airline wants to treat different segments as individual flights within their own rules, then they should sell the tickets as individual journeys. To vary the rules mid journey is just ludicrous.

Air Berlin are a low cost operation in Europe and so have fairly strict luggage allowances. However, variations to rules can be made. For example, I am flying in July from BHX to BOS, via DUB on Aer Lingus. Aer Lingus in Europe is a low cost operation and so have strict luggage allowances. However, for long haul flights it is a normal full service operation and has larger luggage allowances. If you book the flights as a single segment, the connecting flight from BHX to DUB has the larger allowance, despite this segment being flown by the low cost element of their operations. This is not rocket science and is relatively easy to achieve.

So it is important to know if this itinerary was sold as a single ticket. I am also a bit puzzled about the length of time it has taken to make this complaint. Air Berlin are generally not too bad on customer service compared to other low cost operations in Europe.
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  #7  
Old Mar 24, 2009, 8:53 AM
The_Judge The_Judge is offline
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A passenger is allowed the luggage allowance at the time of purchase, normally. Ex., if a passenger purchased a ticket in Jan for travel in June and that airline allowed 2 bags at 70lbs a piece at the time of purchase but subsequently changed the policy in March to 1 bag at 50lbs, the passenger is still entitled to 2 at 70lbs. At least in my experience.

I will also agree with Jim that it depends on how the ticket was purchased. If it was purchased all for one trip on the same itinerary, it makes no difference if there are stopovers. You will be allowed the international allowance even on the domestic portion. This is a very gray area for many agents as they can't seem to decipher what "same itinerary" means. Really, it comes down to the ticket number. If your ticket number shows just one ticket or a conjunction ticket, it is considered to be the same itinerary. If you have 2 completely different ticket numbers combining your international and domestic travel, that equates into 2 wholly different tickets with different rules. Hope that makes sense. : )
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  #8  
Old Mar 24, 2009, 4:44 PM
abutterfinger25 abutterfinger25 is offline
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Originally Posted by The_Judge View Post
A passenger is allowed the luggage allowance at the time of purchase, normally. Ex., if a passenger purchased a ticket in Jan for travel in June and that airline allowed 2 bags at 70lbs a piece at the time of purchase but subsequently changed the policy in March to 1 bag at 50lbs, the passenger is still entitled to 2 at 70lbs. At least in my experience.
Judge is correct.

The Department of Transportation has taken the position that the terms and conditions that are in place at the time the ticket was purchased take priority over any changes made after the purchase date.
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  #9  
Old Mar 25, 2009, 2:46 AM
PHXFlyer PHXFlyer is offline
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I attempted to duplicate the itinerary on Air Berlin's website. It is impossible to purchase one ticket from JFK to Moscow. The Dusseldorf-Moscow portion of the ticket must have been purchased separately unless the ticket was purchased from a travel agent.

Regardless it doesn't matter. No matter what the ultimate destination is if there's a segment that is entirely within Europe then the baggage rule for an intra-european flight would apply. Why would you tell one person traveling from Moscow to Dusseldorf they have a different baggage allowance from another person simply because in several days they are ultimately traveling trans-Atlantic? If you're not connecting you're an O&D passenger just like everyone else.

(O&D mans Origination-Destination...yes it's an "airline" term...one I learned on FlyerTalk. Gawd do I have to defend myself at every turn? YES I GUESS SO!)

Last edited by PHXFlyer; Mar 25, 2009 at 2:49 AM.
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  #10  
Old Mar 27, 2009, 1:20 AM
WorldIsMyHome WorldIsMyHome is offline
 
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Originally Posted by PHXFlyer View Post
I attempted to duplicate the itinerary on Air Berlin's website. It is impossible to purchase one ticket from JFK to Moscow. The Dusseldorf-Moscow portion of the ticket must have been purchased separately unless the ticket was purchased from a travel agent.

Regardless it doesn't matter. No matter what the ultimate destination is if there's a segment that is entirely within Europe then the baggage rule for an intra-european flight would apply. Why would you tell one person traveling from Moscow to Dusseldorf they have a different baggage allowance from another person simply because in several days they are ultimately traveling trans-Atlantic? If you're not connecting you're an O&D passenger just like everyone else.

(O&D mans Origination-Destination...yes it's an "airline" term...one I learned on FlyerTalk. Gawd do I have to defend myself at every turn? YES I GUESS SO!)
I don't understand what you're trying to prove. You're right, that trip is impossible to book on the internet, that's why I booked it on the phone through the Air Berlin agent. I was too naive to believe what they told me and to pay 400 USD extra compares with the online booking to ensure that trans-atlantic standards apply to my whole trip.

You can draw your own conclusions. I, for one, will never fly them again.
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  #11  
Old Mar 27, 2009, 2:02 AM
WorldIsMyHome WorldIsMyHome is offline
 
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Originally Posted by The_Judge View Post
A passenger is allowed the luggage allowance at the time of purchase, normally. Ex., if a passenger purchased a ticket in Jan for travel in June and that airline allowed 2 bags at 70lbs a piece at the time of purchase but subsequently changed the policy in March to 1 bag at 50lbs, the passenger is still entitled to 2 at 70lbs. At least in my experience.

I will also agree with Jim that it depends on how the ticket was purchased. If it was purchased all for one trip on the same itinerary, it makes no difference if there are stopovers. You will be allowed the international allowance even on the domestic portion. This is a very gray area for many agents as they can't seem to decipher what "same itinerary" means. Really, it comes down to the ticket number. If your ticket number shows just one ticket or a conjunction ticket, it is considered to be the same itinerary. If you have 2 completely different ticket numbers combining your international and domestic travel, that equates into 2 wholly different tickets with different rules. Hope that makes sense. : )
This is no gray area - I specifically asked the Air Berlin agent at the time of booking what baggage policy would apply to my ticket. There was an option to buy a cheaper ticket with the legs from DUS to and from DME would be allowed the lower baggage weight. I overpaid to make sure i have no problems. Still, I got the same problems and Air Berlin people try to play as if they have nothing to do with it.

And the "lost paper ticket fee" is a complete shame: I was issued an electronic ticke for all 4 legs of my journey. Yet, I was forced to pay 25 EUR more at DUS. And Air Berling come back to me saying that "they are right" with no explanation whatsoever.
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  #12  
Old Mar 25, 2009, 7:45 AM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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Quote:
No matter what the ultimate destination is if there's a segment that is entirely within Europe then the baggage rule for an intra-european flight would apply
My point, PHX is that if the itinerary is a single ticket, even with a stop over, the allowance should be the same. It is ridiculous to suggest that a passenger should either pay again or abandon their luggage. Stop overs are common on long haul even for a few days. I think the Singapore tourism depends on european stop overs en route to Oz! However, if these were booked as separate tickets, then I agree the allowances are different and the customer will have to pay the excess.
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  #13  
Old Mar 27, 2009, 1:16 AM
WorldIsMyHome WorldIsMyHome is offline
 
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Thanks everyone for your reply. I just got the reply from Air Berlin: they are right in everything, and I am wrong. They were justified in charging me extra for the luggage, no matter that their rep told me that trans-atlantic standards apply to the whole trip. They are right in charging me for the "lost" paper ticket, no matter that the ticket was electronic.

To heck with them. From now on, I am avoiding Air Berlin, even though flying to DME is more convenient for me than flying to SVO. I just don't know what they would come up with next time.
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  #14  
Old Mar 27, 2009, 1:56 AM
WorldIsMyHome WorldIsMyHome is offline
 
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Originally Posted by WorldIsMyHome View Post
On 5/31/2008, I’ve bought an electronic ticket for the itinerary JFK – Dusseldorf – Moscow DME – Dusseldorf – JFK. I paid a full price for the ticket, around USD 1,400.

For no fault of my own, during this travel I was asked to pay additional fees under the threat of refusing the boarding.

1. When I was boarding the airplane in Moscow DME on August 15, 2008, I was forced to pay 50 EUR for what the agent called “extra luggage”. I specifically bought the ticket with the allowed baggage of 2 bags @ 23 kg. Because of that, I paid a higher price for the ticket. Yet, I was asked to pay additional 50 EUR even though my luggage weighed much less than 2 x 23 kg.

2. When I was boarding the airplane in Dusseldorf on August 18, 2008, I was forced to pay 25 EUR “for the lost paper ticket”. As you can see on the attached copy of my electronic ticket, I was issued an electronic ticket, and no-one ever asked me to bring any paper document. The customer service clerk at the customer service desk, D.Evers, was very rude and unprofessional. I had no choice but to pay EUR 25 because otherwise I wouldn’t be allowed to board the plane. Also, at that time, I called the Air Berlin customer service hotline, and the agent at the hotline, who gave her name as Lohram, assured me that I would be reimbursed this money. Yet when I later called the Air Berlin customer hotline, the agent refused any reimbursement and advised me to send you an e-mail complaint. The e-mail address she gave me is dysfunctional ([email protected]), and there is no contact information, except phone numbers, which I've already unsuccessfully tried, on the Air Berlin web site.


I am very disappointed with my experience with Air Berlin - to the point of never flying with them again.
Does anyone know the address of any of Air Berlin office in the US? I'd like to teach them a lesson but it is only possible to do it in the US.

Thanks, I promise to share with you the results.
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  #15  
Old Mar 27, 2009, 4:38 AM
The_Judge The_Judge is offline
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Then I guess it IS a gray area. I dealt with it everyday as a supervisor in Honolulu. Agents couldn't grasp the concept and I had to deal with upset passengers daily about this. So...yes, it is a gray area.

You were told one thing and another thing happened. That was my point. I was on your side here. Agents sometimes can't figure out the easiest things. Read my post again..........I was trying to help you by giving you an agent's prespective but you didn't want to listen. Instead, telling me I'm wrong, that it's not a gray area. 20 years of experience tells me you're wrong. No offense.

As far as an address...Air Berlin's website only shows a German address but I did find this phone number in the U.S. Hope this helps..........United States
866 266 5588.
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  #16  
Old Mar 28, 2009, 1:03 AM
WorldIsMyHome WorldIsMyHome is offline
 
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Thanks for your reply - don't get me wrong, I appreciate your feedback, and I totally understand what you're saying.

What surprised me was how unwavering Air Berlin is: they willingly charged me a few hundred dollars more than was their lowest fare was when I specifically asked them about this itinerary with the trans-Atlantic luggage allowance, and then didn't hesitate to make quick 50 Euros on top of that.

And their 25 Euros charge for "lost paper ticket" when they issued an electronic ticket is a complete joke.

Just as I said - the Germans are quick to rob non-German customers because they think they can get away with it.
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  #17  
Old Mar 28, 2009, 7:49 AM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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I am not so sure nationality had anything to do with this. Low cost airlines are ready to rob their passengers on an equal opportunity basis...
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