In the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Lufthansa has calculated its total reimbursement to passengers this year to be over €3 billion. Constantly changing flight schedules have seen Germany’s largest airline become swamped with refund requests. Lufthansa is currently able to process around 1,700 of these per hour.
Unprecedented demand for reimbursement
In a press release dated October 2nd, Lufthansa announced that it had reimbursed customers to the value of over €3 billion ($3.5 billion) so far this year. The data is valid to September 30th, and concerns all airlines of the Lufthansa Group. Therefore, it also includes the likes of Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings, and SWISS. The airlines have reimbursed over seven million customers thus far.
In the current year, the airlines of the Lufthansa Group have so far reimbursed over three billion euros to a total of over seven million customers. The number of ticket refunds still open fell to around 700,000 worth around 350 million euros. More: https://t.co/xK9XwTgO9X pic.twitter.com/3jQebcFxKv
— Lufthansa News (@lufthansaNews) October 2, 2020
Lufthansa attributes this extraordinarily high figure to “constantly changing travel restrictions and current political decisions.” These force the airline to “make frequent and extensive changes to flight schedules at short notice. This is leading to unavoidable flight cancellations.
These cancellations are the cause of the refunds, which are not the only financial struggle faced by Lufthansa as a result of the pandemic. Indeed, as reported by Simple Flying earlier this week, the airline currently faces the “burden of its $10 billion debt that was issued by the German government to bail it out of the current crisis.”
Likely to be a long-term challenge
Despite having reached the significant financial milestone of the €3 billion mark, Lufthansa is not out of the woods yet. As it stands, a further 700,000 transactions with Lufthansa Group airlines remain open to refunds. This could see up to a further €350 million ($410 million) paid out to eligible customers.
Although Lufthansa is processing the refunds as quickly as possible, the challenge is unlikely to disappear soon. The airline states that the amount of open refund applications will continue to develop dynamically. They will decrease further in the coming weeks. However, the number will not reach zero.
Multiple mitigation measures
Lufthansa is currently processing around 1,700 refunds per hour, with this number having been as high as 1,800 in September. In order to maintain this high frequency, Lufthansa has introduced a number of measures.
The airline states that capacity in the airline’s customer centers has been tripled. Moreover, it has quadrupled in travel agency sales. Furthermore, numerous Lufthansa Group colleagues from other teams have been activated to provide assistance and have been released from short-time working in return.
This shows a firm commitment to customer service on Lufthansa’s part. This sentiment is present not just for canceled bookings, but also in the case of newly-booked flights. Regarding such transactions, Lufthansa states that:
“Customers can also flexibly adjust their travel plans. All fares of Lufthansa, SWISS, Austrian Airlines and Brussels Airlines can be rebooked as often as required without incurring charges. This applies worldwide for new bookings on short, medium and long-haul routes.”
Lufthansa is far from the only airline to face such a challenge, with Emirates and Qatar Airways having each issued over $1 billion as a result of the ongoing situation. Across the board, the challenge of mass-reimbursement seems to be one that is unlikely to disappear any time soon.
Have you had to cancel any existing travel plans due to the coronavirus pandemic? If so, how easy was the reimbursement process? Let us know in the comments.