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A couple lost $4,400 when their Lufthansa flight was canceled. The airline promised them a refund, but 5 months later, they still haven't received the money.

Monica Humphries   

A couple lost $4,400 when their Lufthansa flight was canceled. The airline promised them a refund, but 5 months later, they still haven't received the money.
  • Last summer, a couple was flying home when their connecting Lufthansa flight in Germany was canceled.
  • When they attempted to rebook, their reservations kept disappearing from their accounts.

In October, Emma Giantisco and Dylan Marton breathed a sigh of relief.

It was more than two months after the couple had gotten home after a hectic few travel days. In August, they were flying home from Singapore on United Airlines when their Lufthansa Airlines connection between Germany and New Jersey was canceled, Giantisco told Business Insider.

When the couple attempted to rebook the canceled flight, technology errors repeatedly caused the pair's reservations to disappear from their accounts.

After spending three days stranded in Munich with no scheduled flight home, the couple gave up trying to rebook through the airlines for free and purchased their own tickets. They said they spent over $4,400 out of pocket to get home.

Since then, Giantisco and Marton have tried to get a refund. After submitting their request, United Airlines gave the couple $82 for clothes they purchased after their luggage was lost and told them that Lufthansa was responsible for the rest.

Finally, in October, they thought the whole ordeal might be over when they received an email from Lufthansa stating they would get a refund for their flight between Munich and New Jersey.

Five months have gone by, and the couple said they've yet to receive anything from Lufthansa, though Giantisco did receive 44,000 miles from United — valued at $528, according to Nerd Wallet — a week after BI reached out to the airline for comment on March 11. Marton hasn't received any miles or money.

Lufthansa did not respond to a request for comment.

"More than anything, we need the money we spent trying to get home at the last minute and being stuck in Munich," Giantisco said.

Bad weather and technology landed the couple in this situation

After traveling around Southeast Asia for two months last summer, the couple embarked on a trip back home to Lambertville, New Jersey.

They booked their return flight months in advance with United using miles. Their scheduled flight would take them on a United plane from Singapore to Munich. In Munich, they'd board United's partner airline, Lufthansa, for a flight home.

The couple made it to Germany and boarded their connecting flight. But bad weather delayed the departure. When the crew timed out, the flight was canceled.

At the time, Giantisco remembers thinking they'd easily be rebooked on the next flight to New Jersey.

They contacted Lufthansa's customer service department, where a representative told them the next available flight wasn't for two days. The couple agreed to the rebooking since that was the only option offered.

That's when trouble started. Later, when the couple opened their Lufthansa and United accounts, there weren't any upcoming reservations.

Giantisco called United, and a representative attempted to rebook them on two separate flights home — different from their Lufthansa rebooking.

That reservation was deleted from their account, too.

Giantisco said it spiraled into a situation where both airlines blamed the other. Reservations would be made over the phone but disappear from their accounts hours later.

In a statement sent to BI at the time, a Lufthansa representative said that "after the original onward flight LH412 from Munich to Newark was canceled on August 17, Lufthansa immediately booked an alternative train from Munich to Frankfurt and a flight from Munich to Newark for August 19, which, unfortunately, was deleted by United Airlines."

United told BI that "after receiving a new itinerary from their canceled Lufthansa flight, the customer called United to explore their options, and we rebooked them on a new flight the following day. When the customers did not show up for this flight, they reached out to Lufthansa instead."

Giantisco and Marton said that's far from what happened. Instead, they longed to get home, but with no active reservations on their accounts, there was no way to board the flights and trains the airlines claimed to have booked them on.

"One time, we went to the airport, but we had no way to check into the flight or any way to say that we were on the flight because they deleted everything," Giantisco said.

Marton said after the sixth or seventh failed rebooking, there was "a heart-sinking feeling."

"The more it happened at later and later dates, it just felt more and more like we were never going to get home," he added.

According to the European Union air passenger rights, airline passengers can choose between a reimbursement, rerouting, or return if their flight is canceled. In this case, Gianstico and Marton chose to be rerouted, which requires the airline to book tickets at "the earliest opportunity." Giantisco said the airline failed that do that.

So, after three days in Munich, the couple gave up on rebooking and purchased new tickets with United Airlines.

They flew from Munich to London on a Lufthansa flight and from London to New Jersey on United. The tickets cost $3,153.50. Adding in costs for hotels, food, local transportation, and clothing — the airlines lost their luggage, too — the couple said they spent $4,430.79.

United refunded the couple $82 and issued Giantisco miles months later

Once home, Marton and Giantisco were determined to get their money back. That became a challenge when they discovered their original flight information had been removed from their United flight history. BI viewed more than 15 pages of screenshots the couple took throughout their attempted rebooking process.

They contacted both airlines, unsure which airline was responsible for the reimbursement.

The couple received a refund of $82 from United for the clothes they purchased in the US once they arrived home without their luggage.

In an email sent to Gianstico, a United representative said the Star Alliance partnership agreement states that the operating carrier is responsible for refunds after a canceled flight.

Initially, Lufthansa denied the refund, but the couple pushed back. In October, the airline sent them an email, viewed by BI, that stated, "We would like to offer you a refund for the tickets you still have open."

The couple is unaware of any tickets they have open with the airline or how much that refund would be. They haven't received money from Lufthansa since the email.

In a statement sent to BI in mid-March, a United representative said, "As a goodwill gesture, we reimbursed some expenses from their unexpected overnight stay and are working with Lufthansa to refund the miles used for the canceled flight."

A week later, Giantisco received 44,000 miles in her United account. But Gianstico and Marton agree that the miles don't begin to help the $4,430 missing from their bank account.

"Both of us work in education, so we're a solid middle-class household. I would say this is the first year that I've felt a lot of stress about money," Giantisco said. "All of these strains would have felt more manageable if not for this loss of money."

They also believe that the airlines need to take accountability for what happened.

"I don't think there's any other sort of company or sector that can promise a service, cancel the service, strand you, promise to repay you, and then ghost you for 7 months," Giantisco said. "It's unfathomable behavior."

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