Last November, the airline screwed up a shipment of king crabs that were supposed to be flown from Norway, via Frankfurt to Italy. But they got stuck in Frankfurt for several days due to a booking error. When they finally arrived in Italy days later, they were all dead. Similarly, a shipment of langoustines, originally scheduled to fly from Oslo via Frankfurt to Shanghai, was recently stranded in Frankfurt. Nanette Hansen (NH), Manager of the Norwegian exporter, Silver Seafood, informed us about this embarrassing case. All her attempts to contact Lufthansa Cargo to rescue the animals failed. Because of the serious mishaps that became apparent, we are documenting the case in greater length.
CFG: Nanette, originally the langoustines were supposed to be flown from Oslo via Frankfurt to Shanghai. But at FRA, they missed the PVG flight. Any explanation why?
NH: The shipment was booked on LH861, from Oslo to Frankfurt on 18AUG23, and further from Frankfurt on LH732 to Shanghai, later that day. The langoustines made the LH861 flight but missed the Pudong flight. Why they missed it, we were not told. Lufthansa Cargo failed to provide any explanation. And all our attempts to get in touch with them were unsuccessful. This is why we approached you at CargoForwarder Global last Monday, asking you to please establish a contact to Lufthansa Cargo. Because at that time there was still a minor chance to rescue the animals.
[CFG took up contact, HS]
CFG: How come you were not informed by Lufthansa Cargo and given alternative transport solutions? What were your efforts to get in touch with the airline?
NH: After the langoustines had missed the PVG flight, they stayed overnight in Frankfurt. On Saturday, our Chinese customer called me from Shanghai at 06:00, Norwegian time, telling me to start a trace because the langoustines had not arrived. He also informed me that he was unable to accept the shipment if it had missed the flight because Lufthansa’s next flight would depart in FRA only on Sunday evening (20AUG23). Upon arrival at PVG on Monday morning, all the animals would presumably be dead.
As soon as I got the news, I reached out to our agent who tried to contact Lufthansa Cargo in FRA during the entire weekend but failed to reach any person responsible. Lufthansa’s Oslo office informed our agent that all enquiries and any rebooking should be made online via the carrier’s portal. Although the agent complied with this procedure, his emails were not replied over the weekend.
CFG: You managed to contact them on Monday, asking Lufthansa Cargo to send the langoustines back to Oslo. Why that?
NH: Our intention was to get them back to freeze them in Oslo. This would have saved some value and reduced our losses. Yet, when we asked Lufthansa Cargo to return the cargo to us, they wanted us to pay for the return. [This is documented in the files Nanette attached to her email to CFG, HS]. This is extremely infuriating and at that point I called you at CargoForwarder Global, asking for your support. I think it is immoral to be asked to pay for a shipment spoiled by Lufthansa Cargo, not by us.
CFG: What happened next?
NH: I’m extremely thankful, Heiner, that you delivered a contact of a person responsible at Lufthansa Cargo. Following our telephone conversation, Carina Bender of the Lufthansa Perishable Center got in touch with me. From that very minute, everything went fast and smoothly. It was a pity that we did not get her help earlier, as we could probably have saved the shipment and its value by redirecting it to a client in Barcelona. Instructed by us, she rebooked the shipment on flight LH118 FRA-BCN, which landed in Barcelona at 23:05 local time. However, because of the late arrival, our local client could only customs clear the shipment the day after (22AUG23). By that time, 5 days had elapsed following packing of the langoustines. So, we were not surprised that our local partner informed us that the gel ice had melted, and all animals were dead.
CFG: What is the original value of the shipment?
NH: It was 16.000 USD.
CFG: Who will cover the loss – any insurance? Or does Lufthansa Cargo pay any compensation?
NH: Since the Covid pandemic, we don’t have any insurance backing for live shipments. Therefore, I fear that we will have to cover the losses ourselves. Our agent made a pre-claim to Lufthansa Cargo, but I asked him to skip it because lodging a claim will make Lufthansa Cargo reluctant to book any cargo for us again in the future. We need Lufthansa Cargo after all, as they are the only option to get our products to PVG. In contrast, the SAS flights from Oslo are always fully booked weeks in advance, with little or no lower deck space available. This makes it very difficult to rely on that carrier. So, asking Lufthansa Cargo for financial compensation implies the risk of being blacklisted by them, which would hurt us more than recovering the lost funds of the langoustine shipment.
CFG: Nanette, thank you for your explanations.
To get Lufthansa Cargo’s view, we also spoke with Alina Dittmar, a member of the team responsible for the carrier’s Perishable Center at Rhine-Main Airport.
Alina admitted that Lufthansa Cargo screwed up the consignment scheduled to be flown to Shanghai. Her explanation reads: “Shipments that are transiting FRA in less than 10 hours, are not accommodated in the Perishable Center, but brought to the Lufthansa Cargo Center directly after arrival to be transited to the connecting flight.” In this case, however, the ground handlers at the Cargo Center seem to have missed to prioritize the langoustine shipment, she reasoned. However, she added that she would still need to review the documentation in detail to deliver a final explanation. “Friday is always the busiest day for our ground handling unit. While deconsolidating the incoming goods, the staff might simply have overlooked the urgency of this specific shipment. We screwed it up, it was our mistake,” she admitted and apologized.
To avoid similar cases, Alina recommends customers to send a pre-advice to the Perishable Center (firstname.lastname@example.org), a day before departure, announcing the urgency of an incoming consignment. In doing so, future hiccups with sensitive shipments transiting at FRA may become a thing of the past.
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