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The cheap flight may not be the best.

We got delayed in Denver this trip with a United flight to a Lufthansa flight due to a micro-burst storm over Denver. . So all the connections got messed up down the line. We had 4 other connections to make. What happened was surreal. United said it was Lufthansa's problem and Lufthansa said it was United's problem. We were a part of 9 people on the delayed United flight to make the Lufthansa flight. So we were stuck in Denver. The ticket counters were un-manned. The nine of us had no idea what to do. So we walked back and forth between the United counter and the Lufthansa counter: A long walk. Neither airline wanted to take responsibility for us. And then we just got angry as a group and started being angry as a group. We wore the superiors down, once we got one, so that they, United - the originating flight, gave us new tickets for the next day- and a place to stay the night for free and some swag. But it was HARD to get them to do this, and took five hours. Before deregulation of the airlines I had encountered this before, and just got put on a competitors plane with in a few hours: This is different. This is, "no one knows what to do..."

Posted by
5297 posts

I guess I am confused, it should not be this complicated, but with whom did you book the ticket (I am assuming all segments on one ticket)?

Posted by
6716 posts

This sounds like a breakdown of procedures related to code-shared flights specifically, nothing to do with whether the flight is cheap or not. Every passenger on that itinerary suffered the same fate, no matter what they paid for their tickets (and you may be surprised how large the variance in fares can be across different passengers). Given this inconvenience (sounds weather-related), I would be happy I didn't pay much for this flight.

Posted by
2722 posts

Can you give a little more detail, please? Were all the segments booked on one ticket? Were any of the segments codeshare flights? Was this a Star Alliance connection meaning that the flights may not have been codeshares but were put together on one ticket because both Lufthansa and United are members of Star Alliance?

Posted by
4700 posts

In case of a delay at the airport, I'd be on the phone immediately with whomever issued the tickets, perhaps while waiting in line for an agent at the airport - whoever helps me first is who helps me. This is a case where buying directly from the airline (vs. through an Orbitz or some other third party) can make things a lot easier.

But...when I start an overseas trip, I do like to avoid connections in the US on the way over. Sometimes I stop on the east coast for a few days to visit family and then get a direct flight from there to Europe - so no worry about missed connections in the US that can delay my trip. I've also taken the direct Delta flight from PDX to Amsterdam a few times - super nice way to start a trip. You get to Europe in the morning, and you have all day to make your way to your destination, pretty likely even if there is a delay.

Posted by
1290 posts

Wow, four connections would have me over a cliff! Did you go to a customer service counter?

It would be nice to have more info about how your flights were ticked.

Posted by
5297 posts

I guess I will add, the OP suffered a delay due to weather. Now certainly the airline (once again, if on one ticket) has the responsibility to re-book him on the next available flight, but the airline can hardly be held liable for weather.

Posted by
2608 posts

Count your blessings. Since the delay was caused by weather, the airline had no obligation to put you up in a hotel - or give you swag. United came through for you and you should be thankful, not irritated.

Posted by
5666 posts

Or is this about paying less for a flight with multiple connections rather than a pricier non-stop ? If so, this goes back to the earlier cost vs convenience discussion.

Posted by
2722 posts

"Since the delay was caused by weather, the airline had no obligation to put you up in a hotel - or give you swag. United came through for you and you should be thankful, not irritated."
It's actually interesting to me how little airlines owe passengers because of delays, especially weather-related delays. I learned that the hard way during a very long weather-related delay in Kansas City where I was connecting during a trip from New York to San Francisco.

Posted by
14325 posts

A cautionary note for future travel. A good friend of mine is a United retiree in Chicago (their main hub). Years ago he told me never to connect through Denver if possible since they get more weather delays, sometimes just air/wind problems related to the altitude.

Posted by
6603 posts

We were delayed five nights in Chicago when connecting through there one Christmas due to weather and all expenses were on us. The airlines are not responsible for weather. I would have immediately called airline that issued my ticket to be rebooked ASAP. Four flights is insane; you were bound to have problems.

Posted by
911 posts

A good cautionary tale for never booking a flight with four connections unless you can deal with them getting messed up. I never book flights with more than one connection.

Posted by
3465 posts

I fly from Denver multiple times per month. The only times I have experienced weather delays over the past 15 years has been in winter when it is a blizzard and you can't see anything and the airport snow plows can't keep up with clearing the runways or in summer when there is a lot of lightning in the rain storms. It has been more than a year since weather has been an issue for any of my flights, look like the OP got caught in one of the many storms this summer that got very bad (and I wasn't flying). And I have noticed that the level of staffing at the ticket counters seems to decrease directly proportional to how much they are needed -- a perfectly sunny day and they are falling all over themselves to help, any kind of storm and you are lucky to find one person trying to help the hundreds left stranded.

Chicago has much worse weather delays than any other United hub, especially in the winter which is why I avoid Chicago. If I have to fly through there I just don't take that flight!

Posted by
12387 posts

So far we dont know if it was one ot two tickets and who he bought them from. All might be factors. As far as blaming the airlines for the weather, that's a bit nuts. If we were to make them responsible tickets would cost a lot more. And prior to deregulation, there was no option for a cheap flight. I'm sure there are isolated incidents, but by and large the airlines do a good job and you do get what you pay for.

Four connections? Where did you go? Tibet?

Posted by
736 posts

Mark summed up what our experience was. That day at Denver, there were hundreds of people that missed their connection flights due to the micro burst. We were grounded at Grand Junction, for refueling cause the pilot didn't have enough fuel to maintain a holding pattern. But the pilot also said not to worry about connection flights because no body was leaving Denver. And if we did miss our connection then United would "Take care of it." We should have gone directly to United Customer Service. But thought that maybe we could run to the Lufthansa gate and still catch the plane. This in hindsight was a stupid strategy because there would have been no time to transfer our luggage. We got to the Lufthansa gate and there was no body there. None of the Lufthansa gates were manned. That plane took off, on time, during the supposed airport shut down. Thats when we met up with all the other passengers that missed that same flight. So we all walked over to Lufthansa ticketing. Again, no one was there. We found an Air Canada agent that directed us to go to the United Ticketing Counter. This is when things got very confusing. The ticket agents didn't seem to have or know a standard procedure for handling our situation. United held to the line that this was a weather related issue. That we had to talk to Lufthansa for re-ticketing. We got the Lufthansa Customer service number and they said they were sending someone to their ticket counter. We requested that our check-in luggage be retrieved and we saw the ticket agent make that phone call to Baggage Handling. We walked back to the Lufthansa counter. All this walking and navigating was made difficult because Denver has its entire ticketing area under construction. Then there was an issue of "releasing the prior issued tickets." Only a supervisor could do this and they were not available. For some reason, we walked back to United. We were all pretty exhausted from all the walking and waiting. One of the United Supervisors then took us under wing, so to speak, and things started to get settled. Some how United released the prior tickets and gave us hotel vouchers. This is when our horror show with Expedia raised its ugly head again. I had three sets of tickets, two were left over from what was supposed to be a cancellation from Expedia, because they had mangled my name on the tickets and one set was the re-issued, directly booked Air Canada set. Expedia never cleared out the old incorrectly named ticket sets. So my wife was still booked through Expedia and i was booked through Air Canada. Then we had to walk back to Lufthansa to have the new tickets issued for the same set of flights the next day. One of those new tickets was wrong and fortunately we discovered it before leaving the airport. Baggage Handling didn't have a clue of the prior request to pull our luggage. Said it would take three hours by which time they would be closed but the luggage would be in locked storage in the morning. And we had to also reschedule the TGV train from CDG Paris to the city of Tours and the hotel reservation there. We then raced to the Hotel we had vouchers for in Denver and got one of the last three rooms available. The people behind us were turned away. So there were some hard learned lessons here for us. One: Don't select an international flight plan that has a short hop in the US as its first connection, especially if its Denver. Even if it seemed like a good value to do multiple connections on multiple carriers. We should have booked a more expensive direct flight to a major airport in Europe. Two: Try not to go through multiple Airlines. We were just asking for trouble if any of these connections failed.

Posted by
3180 posts

I'm not sure you have the right lessons. Mixing airlines from the same alliance is standard practice and not to be avoided.

  1. Try to get everyone traveling together on the same reservation. If something simple happens like a change of aircraft then everyone will likely be re-seated together with the new seating layout. And when things get dicey then it's as simple as it can be when it's one reservation purchased from one party.

  2. Try not to buy from online travel agencies.

  3. If there's a 2 flight option then pay up to 25% more for it.

I guess I disagree with others about the weather. When there's a misconnection due to late arrival of the first plane then the airline must put you up for the night, provided it's one ticket.

Posted by
1942 posts

Don't select an international flight plan that has a short hop in the US as its first connection, especially if its Denver.

Having lived in and traveled to and from Denver for decades, I agree with this learning. I often start my international trips from Denver because I have family here. I give myself at least a day to visit before my international flight. And as others have said, I book nonstop Denver to Europe even if I have a connection from there. I just don't want that additional worry.

Posted by
1878 posts

Even two connections is something I avoid, if I can. Four is really pushing it. Also a good principle to make the long hop to Europe instead of connecting in the US. I did SFO-Vancouver-Munich-Athens in 2011 and it actually worked. Except my wife’s bags did not arrive until a day and a half later. It worked OK but since we were getting on a cruise a few days later it made for some anxiety. My last two trips United pushed me with their pricing to connect in Newark. Would like to avoid that in the future but I don’t know if I would pay $500 more to avoid it.

Posted by
5297 posts

Taking about ten big steps back from this post, I guess I will just comment on the following.

The big issue is that the OP booked a complicated itinerary on a third party site (Expedia) that involved an itinerary on multiple Star Alliance airlines (I don't know, but I have seen United, Lufthansa, Air Canada, and still not entirely sure what the route was or if there are more airlines involved) and while they may have been an Expedia ticket, Expedia may have pieced together multiple tickets.

So big problem, weather issues, the first contact should have been with Expedia, but that would have been maybe useless, so I can see why each airline shrugged their shoulders. You can expect that they will reschedule you, but with so many connections, just assume you will miss them all and have a new itinerary. To expect that they will put you up and give you "swag" is beyond reality (sure they had to land due to fuel, but for weather why should they be liable?) so in Denver, due to booking with Expedia, you were maybe "orphans" of a sort, but mainly if you did not know who was primary on your booking (United?, Lufthansa?, Canada Air?) that is who would resolve your issue.

Then you bring up the issue of Expedia bookings and a name being messed up, then tickets reissued...but sorry, sites use the exact name you put in, they did not mess up, you likely did (did it before with my daughter), so yes, again more complexity.

Finally, sorry you had to re-book train tickets and a hotel, but even the slightest delay could have prompted that, anytime you buy train tickets (or another air ticket, a non-refundable hotel, etc) it is a risk, again, not a problem of the weather in Denver, issues in Chicago, or any delay, only your planning.

If you want life lessons...
- If you book third party, know your rights, expect to be second in line.
- Never book thinking everything will work out unless you can afford to lose what you have booked, or can cover through insurance.
- The adage of you get what you pay for proves itself time and time again. Know the risks, plan for the worst

Posted by
4970 posts

Glad it finally worked out, and your post title says it all. We’ve seen some complicated, multi-connection, much longer elapsed time options offering greatly cheaper flights, but sometimes you really do get what you pay for.

And it’s been so hot and dry this September in the Denver, we could use some more storms here, for the sake of vegetation and reduced fire hazards.

Posted by
75 posts

Glad you were able to get this resolved. Many years ago I booked a flight through Orbitz, and during the trip I misplaced my return ticket. So without all the details, this was the very last time I booked through a third party. I always book my flights with the airline directly, and in most cases can get the same or similiar flights for the same price. My ticket wasn't even complicated at the time, like yours, but no one took responsiblity. I almost always book directly with hotels too...once burned...or something like that.