International air ticket re-booking tip when stranded: call your home airline

First published on February 25, 2010

Before you fly, write down the phone number (non toll-free version) of the airline through which you booked in the originating country. If the originating country is different than the base country of that airline, write down the phone number for the airline in its base country as well. If you booked through a travel agent, write down their phone number as well. These phone numbers could be useful resources if you ever experience flight connection and/or booking problems while in a foreign country.


Recently I was flying back to Canada from Europe through Frankfurt. I had booked through Air Canada but was flying on Lufthansa due to the two airlines’ partnership through the Star Alliance. My flight to Frankfurt had been delayed, causing me to miss my connecting flight from Frankfurt back to Canada.

At that point, I was told to head to the Lufthansa booking counter to get on another flight. It was a Sunday afternoon, and the next (and last) flight to Canada was leaving in 3 hours. This is a summary of who I politely tried to get to book my flight:

  • Lufthansa in-airport booking counter: The line-up was over 2 hours long. By the time I had gotten re-booked by another means, the person who had been directly in front of me in line was still waiting. Therefore, had I waited in that line the whole time, I might have missed the last flight, or they might have given me the same “can’t help you because you booked on Air Canada” answer as the Lufthansa German reservations phone centre.
  • Air Canada in-airport booking counter: She said she could not help me because I was on a Lufthansa flight and it was Lufthansa’s responsibility to get me on another flight since they had caused the delay. After I pleaded, she supposedly tried to do what she could but said she simply didn’t have access to book me.
  • Lufthansa German reservations phone centre: She said she could not help me because my flight was booked through Air Canada.
  • Air Canada German reservations phone centre: It’s closed on weekends.

(While the Star Alliance is useful in terms of giving you more booking options for a particular airline, it also makes it easier for airline representatives to play a game of “pass the buck”.)

I then called Air Canada’s Canadian reservations centre. Within about 5 minutes, they had booked me on the last flight home.


I was lucky in a couple of respects:

  • I met a fellow passenger who was in a similar situation as me. He was able to lend me his phone to call the German phone numbers.
  • I had a laptop and headset in my carry-on bag, and my home phone provider is a VoIP provider. This meant that I was able to look up Air Canada’s Canadian reservations centre toll-free number and call it as if I was in Canada (although on an expensive airport Internet connection). As I noted at the beginning of this post, be sure to have the non toll-free number of your home airline, because if you are stranded in a foreign country, you will likely not be able to call the toll-free number.

2 Responses to “International air ticket re-booking tip when stranded: call your home airline”

  1. holly says:

    I have just returned home from spain and found myself in the same situation. I plan on contacting these unsympathetic jerks right now! I booked on air canada missed my flight because on the itinerary it was labels as lufthansa so they instructed my to wait in the 45min lufthansa line to check in by the time i got to the counter they said i needed to be in air canada line. No one could tell me where that was located. By the time i found it after asking about three random employees at the airport i had 45min til my flight. The had already shut down the ONE air canada check in counter and wouldnt give me my boarding pass stating i had to be there with an hour til the flight. I was directed to a lufthansa help desk which didnt help me since i booked with ail cananda they treated my like they could care less. I pleaded with them to just print my tickets i still had 40min i knew i could make it but thehy refused. To sum up after fighting crying and trying to call air canada reps i ended up paying $445 for another flight since i was told this was my only way i could leave spain. It was horrible and i plan on telling everyone i ever see not to use these people

  2. C. Kish says:

    Good afternoon,
    I have been searching everywhere to find the NON toll free US numbers for:
    Air France
    I know these are critically important numbers to have on a long journey and I wonder if you can point me in the right direction??

    thx mch
    C. Kish

    Reply from Peter: I don’t have those numbers, but it would be useful to compile a list of such numbers. Please post back if / when you find them.

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