2 min read


Theyre cranky because they never sleep. 

“Due to the late arrival of the incoming aircraft…”: many a long day start like that. What was supposed to be a leisurely 1.5 hour connection just turned into a 10 hour layover, camped out at the LH service desk, with a party of seven, many of whom do not go to the bathroom by themselves  

The main issue, as far as I’m able to work out, was the breakdown in communications between United and Lufthansa. While we were flying transatlantic with a one hour delay, UA began to work on rebooking all of us and eventually tried to hold seats on multiple LH flights but couldn’t because LH had taken control of the final leg by re-issuing the ticket in its system. It was originally a UA booking on an LH-operated UA codeshare flight. Now it was an LH ticket for a flight we had missed  due to a UA delay  

What resulted was an absolute disaster. Multiple hour-long calls with United (yes, GS). Multiple times queuing at LH’s physical service desk. Fingers pointed by both sides at the other: “LH took control of the booking and won’t release it.” “Inbound UA was delayed and hence it’s UA responsibility.”

In the end LH “rolled over” (“Kulanz” iykyk) and rebooked on a much later flight. Including putting the minors (all under 10) into middle seats next to strangers and only reversing this at gate when emphatically made clear that this isn’t regulation.

UA made a valiant effort and yet failed so hard on this itinerary. The first agent said no problem, we will handle the rebooking. The second agent said it is complicated, but we will get it done and call you back. They never called back. The third GS agent said to trust the process and it'll all work out (it did not)  The final GS agent said they couldn’t resolve but to her great credit stayed on the phone for almost two hours while Lufthansa kept pushing back and then finally re-issued tickets at the service desk.

So what are the issues at play here? I may have invested in travel companies, but never directly in the flights vertical, so I don’t know my way around those systems . Could it be infrastructure-layer software, which is very, very old? The data interchange or API connectors between LH and UA, including how permissions work between systems? E.g. it’s weird that you can’t reserve seats on a UA codeshare LH-operated flight through the UA app. Is it the software gore that is Lufthansa (honestly, Germany, it's embarassing)?Or is it a feature of irregular operations, or IRROPS, which means in extraordinary situations the responsibilities aren’t totally clear and two sides with good will actually get in each other’s way.

I asked UA what to do better next time, whether anything I had done had caused this. The agent said to call the desk as soon as there was a delay, so even on the ground before boarding the delayed flight. Interesting since I had actually done this (albeit through a flaky chat). That agent just reassured me that either they would make up the delay or GS would handle — in hindsight, a clear case of HUCA, i.e. “hang up, call again.”

Alright, alright, enough whining for now. We are taxiing to the runway on our final leg. 45 min delay thus far. My tooth hurts. Our youngest (INF) is giving my wife a hard time somewhere up front. 27E over and out.