Connecting Flights: A Comedy of Errors
Updated: Feb 28
When we were planning our trip to Greece, we knew only that we wanted to get away and that we wanted it to be as comfortable and easy as possible. Having travelled to Dubai and the Maldives earlier that year in luxurious business class seats, we wanted the same for Greece, but found that direct flights to Athens were beyond our “willing to spend” price range. So, a plan emerged.
We decided to take advantage of available routes and add a stopover vacation in London for a few days on the way home. In order to achieve this, we essentially booked two separate trips through Expedia: Toronto to London (with a short stop in Iceland both ways) plus hotel in London & London to Athens (with a short stop in Munich on the way there and a short stop in Frankfurt on the way back) plus hotel in Athens. Bundling the hotel and flights together allowed for further discounts on Expedia, which essentially meant we could travel in style and comfort in business class seats the entire trip for the same cost of a direct economy flight to Athens.
Toronto to Iceland was no issue; we sat comfortably in the large leather seats of Icelandair, enjoyed the free packages of travel essentials and delicious menu items (and discovered that blueberry liqueur is to die for). After landing in Reykjavik, we wandered around the Iceland airport for about an hour, before we were shuttled off to board our next flight to London. The departure of our Lufthansa flight was slightly delayed in Reykjavik and we taxied at Heathrow Airport in London for 20 minutes, but we weren’t worried. The Customs line was not very long when we joined, but we soon learned that it was moving at a snail’s pace. As we made our way slowly through the roped aisles, we had no idea what time it was or how long we had been waiting to be seen by a Customs agent. As soon as we passed through, we quickly picked up our bags and headed towards the gate. We arrived the exact the time the connection was set to depart and they were no going to let us on.
As the airport representative confirmed that we indeed missed the flight, we did not stress. We smiled, shrugged our shoulders and headed over to the Lufthansa desk. We had already anticipated this as a possibility, and being the worry wart that he is, my other half was already aware of a number of flight options that would land us in Athens around the same time as we originally planned. Calmly talking to the Lufthansa representative, we explained the situation and waited for her to provide flight options. To our surprise, she did not. What she did tell us, we were not expecting.
According to the calm, somewhat indifferent representative sat behind the small Lufthansa counter (in a long line of counters) we not only missed our flight, but essentially forfeit all the flights linked to it. She explained that since we booked the London to Athens (and return) flights separately, the London to Munich flight that we just missed was considered the first leg. Normal policy indicates that if you miss the first flight, you forfeit the remaining flights. Had we missed the second flight, however, the company would have no problem setting us up on the next plane out of London, free of charge. Now we were stressing.
With a slightly smug tone, she explained that “no one reads the fine print” on third party bookings, like Expedia, and often travellers don’t understand what the risks are. She claimed we could likely receive a refund from Expedia if we called them to explain that we missed the flight, but it wouldn’t cover the total cost; the taxes paid would not be recovered. Either way, our only option was to purchase a flight if we wanted to continue on to Athens. Stupidly we believed her.
Standing with our bags in the middle of busy Heathrow Airport, we very plausibly could have no where to go. We weren’t sure if what the Lufthansa representative was saying about the remaining flights was true, but what we did know was our boarding pass was now null and void. The main priority was getting to Athens, so we walked a few feet to the left and asked to book the available