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Update on post re 85 min connection FRA - ATH - how it turned out...

That I am writing this from Frankfurt airport a day after we were supposed to arrive home is a hint. I posted about an 85 min transfer time in FRA to transfer Lufthansa ("LH") flights (EU flight to an international flight). We actually never found out, here is our experience:

Our flight from Athens to FRA was delayed by 3 hours and 39 min. So, by the time we got to FRA, our flight home was long gone. It was not just us, our flight had a large number of people who missed connections. That makes sense since FRA is a big hub. Over three hours of delay means more opportunity to miss flights. And there were multiple flights arriving at the same time we arrived. It was a swarm to the service agents and long lines quickly formed.

We then spent over three hours in FRA terminal trying to get a flight home. We waited over two hours to speak to a Lufthansa service desk person. The agent, who told us she had been on duty over 8 hours, was extremely nice, but it took time to rebook us. We got a lower class of seat, but we were grateful since several people in our line had no options at all until Monday or Tuesday.

Oh, also our bags were gone and the baggage was closed. BTW I dialed LH customer service when we landed, hoping we could rebook over the phone, but after 75 minutes on hold, I hung up.

I am posting for the following reasons: We asked everyone we encountered at Lufthansa, and many passengers in line, what was going on. Here is what we heard (again, I am not bashing LH or any other airline, simply giving you a heads up based on my experience, much like I look here for tips).

1) Plan to encounter a delay for travel in Europe this summer. You may not, but delays - were were told - are now the rule not the exception. We heard from multiple airport staff that this is b/c people are traveling this summer (hoo-ray!), but staffing during Covid went down and there are not enough staff to handle the crowds. From gate agents to maintenance. Is that true, I cannot say, I can only report on our experience and what we were told, but it makes sense to me.

2) Plan at least a three hour layover in FRA this summer. Whoever posted about a two hour layover in FRA being not enough, you were so right! While a shorter layover ultimately may not present problems, If you are booking a flight for travel this summer, please consider a three hour window for your connection in FRA. It is a large airport, very nice, but again LARGE. So you are walking a long distance, and there is security and passport reviews and then a "just for Americans" document check. While B. gates to A gates or Z gates look close on a small FRA map, they are not. The flight boards have walking times, check those out.

3) Kudos to the LH service center staff who stayed late into the night to help people. We got a great night in a hotel, with breakfast. Not planned, but we did not spend the night in the terminal. The hotel said they had dozens of LH travelers checking in BTW. We got all checked for return flights on on our mobile apps at the hotel so that saved time, but we still returned to the airport (three hours early) b/c we had to have LH find our luggage and route it home.

4) Toss a couple Binax AG tests in your bag just in case of delay. Read the CDC Covid "delayed flight" information. We took tests on the day before departure, but those expired on the day our flight left without us. We went over the CDC guidelines, but it was not clear how long our tests were good for. When I uploaded the 6/3 test result to my phone app for our new tickets it was rejected and we could not check in. So LH gave us a voucher and there is an all night EMed stand in FRA that was great. Super easy to upload (even at 1:00 a.m. after a long day) and we were able to get our boarding passes before bed. If we had not had the FRA test site, we would have been out of luck, so having the Binax tests may be a good back up.

Finally, happy and safe travels!

Posted by
8491 posts

Thank you for coming and sharing your experience when you must be so tired. I hope that the rest of your journey goes smoothly for you.

Posted by
20309 posts

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men. Gang aft a-gley”.

Here's to getting home today in good order.

Posted by
3333 posts

So so sorry for your troubles, Marie & thank heaven it finally worked out. THe sad lesson may be -- annoying and pricey as they may be, our nonstops from N. AMerica to/from Athens are at least spared the connnection nightmare this summer seems to have in store.

Posted by
9762 posts

Marie — I am so sorry for your stress and extra hours. As someone mentioned, your ability to stay cool and kind surely helped you navigate this unexpected delay. I am so glad you got a hotel for the night.

Raymone — WOW. That is a truly extraordinary action by KLM!!! I am agog.

I hadn't heard of that at all - thank you for sharing.

Posted by
6788 posts

@Marie -- Thanks for the report. This is all pretty worrisome, and it seems likely that this is just going to get worse -- kids are still in school, the peak travel season hasn't stated yet. I'm trying to imagine how much fun this is going to be come July and August. It's gonna be a long, hot summer...

Posted by
299 posts

Home! And thanks to all who posted. And I am reminded of the value of the Rick Steves site. I have gotten the heads up on this forum more than once. If any of these posts help another traveler avoid what happened to us, then it is worth the post.

And yes, I am not optimistic that our experience was just a fluke. As the world travels again, it may take some time for the Covid-impacted travel industry to catch up.

Posted by
262 posts

You qualify for the maximum compensation for flight delay under European rules 261/2014 of 600 euros each in addition to your hotel and food comps. I had a similar situation and filed for the compensation with Lufthansa. It was a easy process to file the claim and Lufthansa quickly compensated me the 600 euros directly into my bank account. They should have informational brochures about the EU 261/2014 regulations for flight delays at any check in counter. It’s softens the pain a bit.