Despite having traveled without any incidents numerous times with Austrian Airlines (AUA) since 2000 as a Star Alliance frequent traveler, my most recent experience with them is likely to turn into my last.
Together with my husband, I was bound for an AUA Dubai – Vienna – Bucharest flight in early February 2010, flight on which our dog had been confirmed as excess luggage by AUA. Despite this confirmed reservation, a couple of days before the expected departure I was told that I had to change my dog’s reservation from excess luggage to cargo and given phone numbers to call accordingly. When called, the AUA cargo officials were unfortunately unable to process the cargo reservation for my dog, sending me back to ticketing/reservations, claiming that the dog should not be booked as cargo. For a final solution to be found by AUA, my husband and I spent over 30 phone calls between the AUA cargo and ticketing offices in both Dubai and Vienna, spread over more than 24 hours, and even, out of despair, took a trip to the ticketing office where were initially met with utter lack of responsiveness (“it is not our problem, we cannot book your dog out of Dubai because of the embargo”) and even called liars by one of the AUA staff (“the person you claimed to have spoken with in the Cargo Section does not exist”, repeating this even after her colleague told her in front of us that such staff member did indeed exist and giving her his extension number).
Given this unbearable uncertainty, in the end, owing to the kind recommendation of another AUA ticketing representative in Dubai, himself seemingly dismayed at his colleague’s attitude, we decided to fly our dog on another airline, just before a finally responsible staff in Vienna advised on how to proceed with AUA, too (which was simply to book the dog as cargo with him).
When confronting AUA with this incredible situation during which two adults and a dog were stranded in Dubai, waiting for the airline to practically deliver on its regular course of business, they merely blamed the Dubai authorities for changed procedures and even accused us of not having followed through with the final reservation for the dog when they eventually established what procedures needed to be followed. More severe than transferring the responsibility elsewhere was however their response: “It is our contractual obligation to transport you (and your luggage, pets, ...) to your final destination; however, there is no guarantee that this can be done within a certain timeframe.”
It seems problematic that a reputed airline simply believes that a pet could be left behind by his/her owners indefinitely until they solve what should constitute day-to-day business activities (normal passenger and cargo service) or that the pet's owners need to waste time and money to that effect. As encountering problems or making mistakes is not an issue in itself but addressing these is, it also seems problematic that AUA considers that such a handling of the situation on their side is acceptable. Needless to say, after AUA's initial response, despite following up with additional information on our side (as we felt necessary to re-iterate initial information which AUA appeared to fail to take into account in their response to us), no other response has been received.