“My personal hero today is Ms. Patricia Dzai. Patricia works for Swissport in Johannesburg, South Africa,” said eTN Publisher Juergen Steinmetz. Swissport is one of the largest aviation ground-handling agencies operating in countries around the world.
Major airlines hire Swissport to manage customer relations and logistics when it comes to baggage handling, including lost or misplaced items.
Lufthansa German Airlines’ ground handler in Johannesburg is Swissport. I recently traveled from Nice to Cape Town via Frankfurt and Johannesburg on Lufthansa German Airlines. I am a United Airlines Star Alliance Gold member and traveled on Lufthansa in Business class. Lufthansa is a member of Star Alliance.
When I arrived in Johannesburg, I heard my name called by Lufthansa’s lost baggage office handled by Swissport.
I was told my tube was still in Frankfurt, and they would put it on the next flight to Johannesburg. I explained it was of utmost importance to have the tube for an important trade show event, the World Travel Market in Cape Town, in the morning.
Patricia Dzai, the Swissport agent in Johannesburg, wanted to make sure this would be possible and sent an urgent message to Lufthansa in Frankfurt. The message said:
I was pleased to know my tube would go on LH 576 directly to Cape Town almost in time for the start of World Travel Market.
I went on to fly to Cape Town and received a text message in the evening saying my tube would be on the Lufthansa flight to Johannesburg, which was different from what Patricia had requested. Since it was late and the Swissport office in Johannesburg was closed, I was able to find a non-published phone number for Lufthansa baggage service in Frankfurt. Lufthansa, like most airlines, is hiding phone numbers to encourage passengers to communicate only by email.
I was told by Lufthansa Baggage Service in Frankfurt no such message to forward my tube to Cape Town was ever received by Swissport Johannesburg. The agent went on to say that passengers are often not told the truth by Swissport agents.
The Lufthansa agent in Frankfurt explained that his job was not to help me, since this was only handled in Johannesburg. I argued my tube is in Frankfurt and not Johannesburg, and the handling agent for Swissport in Johannesburg was closed.
The agent then said he was now doing a one-time exception for me and would reroute my tube on LH576 directly to Cape Town. He said there were 5 hours to get this done, still plenty of time according to him.
The next day I received another message telling me again the tube was on its way to Johannesburg instead of Cape Town.
I called Swissport in Johannesburg, and the news not could have been worse. They told me, apologizing, that my tube was still in Frankfurt for a second day, and they did not know why.
I again called the baggage-handling office in Frankfurt and was again told it’s all Swissport’s mistake for not telling them where to send it.
This time I was angry and called Swissport Johannesburg again. I asked Patricia why she was lying about this. I told her she never sent this request to Frankfurt, according to Lufthansa.
Ten minutes later, I received an email with a time-stamped screenshot from Patricia Dzai showing me exactly what was requested by her in the first place.
Patricia actually had gone out of her way originally to make sure I would be united with my tube on time and in Cape Town. I felt bad thinking she didn’t care and didn’t do anything, when in fact she did.
It shows that big companies like Lufthansa have a serious customer service issue. They hide behind a huge system and are trained to say it’s not their job and simply blame others for company shortcomings.
There was no way I could talk to anyone at Lufthansa about this, and my urgent email to them on the day I was trying to get the tube re-routed was just responded to 2 weeks after I was already back home in Hawaii. Lufthansa offered a 200 euro compensation.
No explanation was given and no apology for accusing Patricia Dzai and Swissport for not doing their job.
I finally received my tube on the last day after the trade show and took it back to the US unopened. When I changed planes in Frankfurt, I asked the agent working in the Senator Lounge to speak to a supervisor in baggage handling about this case and compensation. She told me I have to send an email, which I had already done days ago.
She gave me some chocolate and said they get customers’ complaints all the time and do their best to help and respond, but the back-up system by the airline is not there.
It’s all about a giant non-caring anonymous machine.
I extend my apologies to Patricia Dzai from Swissport, as I now understand she was also a victim of shortcomings created by Lufthansa German Airlines.
Patricia Dzai is the eTN Hero for today.