Thursday, October 31, 2013

Our problems with Elumbus

Now we are going to report on a somewhat of a different topic: our experience with booking a flight from Lima to Sao Paulo with Elumbus. It was a real mess and took us literally several weeks to clear up. 

Long story short: We booked a flight with Elumbus using an EasyBank credit card. A couple of days later Elumbus claimed that they had been unable to withdraw money from the credit card. This credit card had worked up to then without problems. We were told that the price of the tickets had gone up by 2x150 EUR, and instructed to buy them for the new price or pay a 2x75 EUR cancellation fee. This fee was mentioned in small letters in their very long and complicated terms and conditions. We exchanged many e-mails with different Elumbus employees and were told contradictory things. We were also threatened with even higher fees during phone calls with Elumbus. In the end we paid the 2x75 EUR fee, and in exchange were promised 2x50 EUR worth of vouchers that we would be able to use for our next purchase. A couple weeks later when we tried to use these vouchers, Elumbus claimed that they can only be used for intercontinental flights. This had never been mentioned before. A second round of arguments started and eventually we managed to convince Elumbus to at least partially apply our vouchers for the flight of our choice. In total we lost 69 EUR. Problems such as this seem common for the company: we later discovered many complaints in German, including one page dedicated only to problems with Elumbus. We also found some complaints in English (for example here and here).

Read on if you are ever thinking about booking tickets with Elumbus. It is a long story, but trust us, it is better to be reading it than living it. If you do not have time, just scroll down to the conclusions.

In order to keep privacy of the employees we use nicknames.

21st of September
Using, we searched for the cheapest tickets from Lima (Peru) to Sao Paulo (Brazil). Skyscanner redirected us to, where we were informed that they do not sell tickets for that price any more. Using we found that the original price was still available on Elumbus and on one or two more websites.

ACTION1: We decided for Elumbus and booked with them, as other sites required a high (up to 70 EUR) credit card fee. We used a credit card instead of having the money withdrawn (Lastschrift) from Laura's account. Using the credit card was more expensive, but from past experience with various German travel agents, we thought it would be a more reliable option.

Elumbus website

We were somewhat surprised that we were not redirected to a 3-D Secure page (Verified by Visa) and just received an e-mail with an invoice stating that everything is fine, we do not need to do anything and our tickets would be issued soon.

As things seemed all right, we departed for a four-day hike.

25th of September
We returned back to civilization and read an e-mail from Elumbus, dating September 23rd. It stated that they had been unable to take money from our EasyBank credit card, and hypothesized that this could have been due to a too low or used up limit on the card. They also asked that we supply them with a clarifying statement from our bank, so that they would be able to take money by the evening of September 23rd. The e-mail also mentioned a 2x75 EUR cancellation fee.

We wrote them that we do not want our tickets to be cancelled, and verified with EasyBank that more than double of the original price could have been booked on the card without reaching any limit. We also offered to wire the money instead.

We tried to call Elumbus via Skype, but were not able to pass even the language selection: it looked as though the Elumbus system was unable to recognize the language selection beep generated by the Android version of Skype. 

26th of September
We received an e-mail from Ms. Unpleasant. She told us that the price of the tickets had increased by 2x150 EUR. She also wrote that unless we book for this expensive price, we would be charged 2x75 EUR.

We replied that we are not willing to give up the original price for which we had booked. We offered that we could be flexible with our departure dates in order to keep the price.

As we still hadn't received an answer a couple of hours later and the office hours in Germany were coming to the end, we decided to call them from a telephone booth. I reached Ms. Nice. A bit of patience was needed in the beginning to explain the situation, but eventually she started looking into various options for how we could get to Sao Paulo for a decent price. During the conversation she also mentioned that perhaps we would not have to pay the cancellation fee as it may not have been our fault, but she would have to discuss this with her supervisor. While she was searching for a new flight, she even called us back to ask for more details. 

Later on we received an e-mail from Ms. Nice. Unfortunately, the e-mail was in quite complicated German even though our phone conversation had been in English only. The e-mail stated that:
  • she was unable to find any flight for the original price.
  • the cancellation fee could be reduced from 2x75 EUR to 2x25 EUR if we book another flight with them.
We asked her for more details about this reduced fee, but never got a reply.

We tried to call Elumbus again as they should have 24h call service. However, it was already quite late in Germany, and we gave up after 10 minutes of waiting on the line.

27th of September
The next morning, instead of receiving an e-mail from Ms. Nice, we again got a bit arrogant e-mail from Ms. Unpleasant. She was completely unaware about our conversation with Ms. Nice, and again demanded the 2x75 EUR.

We provided Ms. Unpleasant with information from Ms. Nice. Eventually Ms. Unpleasant replied and confirmed that if we book another flight with them, only the reduced cancellation fee would apply. She did not, however, provide information on how we should proceed.

After having a positive experience calling Ms. Nice, we decided to call Elumbus again. This time I tried to use Skype again, but from an internet cafe rather than our tablet. It was less convenient, but worked. I reached a new person who:
  • did not really explain anything
  • kept repeating that he can not do any re-booking for us
  • stated that currently there is nobody who can search for flights and talk over the phone the way that Ms. Nice had been able to
  • stated that people from the re-booking department can not receive phone calls
  • refused to connect us to his supervisor
  • refused to give neither the name nor contact information of his supervisor
  • was only able to give out the name of the CEO of Elumbus - Jörn Eble
  • kept repeating that the only way we could continue is to write an e-mail to Ms. Unpleasant as they are very busy at the call center
  • in total this call took 13 minutes and did not move us forward at all.
Thinking that this person was probably not alone at the call center, I tried calling them again. This time I reached Mr. Primary Contact. He was not very friendly, but professional. During the almost-20-minute call he explained things clearly and helped to move our communication forward. He stated that:
  • perhaps EasyBank (from Austria) did not trust this German travel agent and was not willing to release the money from our credit card.
  • Elumbus is using the latest Secured by Visa system.
  • it is not Elumbus charging the 2x75 EUR fee, but the flight companies.
  • if we do not cancel the tickets and pay the 2x75 EUR before October 2nd, we would have to pay an even higher fee, which would rise with time: 2x100, 2x125 EUR, ...
  • He mentioned their Terms and Conditions a couple of times and pointed that we were probably not able to understand them completely.
  • He also clarified the information from Ms. Nice: after paying 2x75 EUR, we would be issued 2x50 EUR vouchers which can be used for any booking with Elumbus anytime in the future.
  • Use of the vouchers would not be simple: we would first need to book through their web interface, then call them and ask for the voucher to be applied.

OBSERVATION1: Elumbus claims to be using the latest Secured by Visa system, even though we were never redirected to the Secured by Visa page.

OBSERVATION2: Elumbus claims it is the flight company charging the 2x75 EUR fee, but they would be able to give us 2x50 EUR vouchers valid for any booking with Elumbus, regardless of the flight company. The 2x75 EUR fee is also to be transferred directly to Elumbus and not to the flight company.

OBSERVATION3: Mr. Primary Contact was completely correct about the Elumbus terms and conditions being complicated. We even asked for the help of Laura's sister Marin, who spent a part of her law studies in Germany (Frankfurt am Main) and works at the Estonian Supreme Court. Even she had a hard time analyzing these terms and conditions.

In his next e-mail, Mr. Primary Contact wrote that we would be entitled for 2x50 EUR vouchers and asked for an e-mail confirmation to cancel our tickets. We confirmed under the condition of receiving vouchers with unlimited validity. We then received a confirmation of cancellation and an invoice for 2x75 EUR stating on page 2 that we do not need to do anything (the money had been taken from our credit card), but on page 3 that we need to wire the money. We clarified this with Mr. Primary Contact, and he stated that we have to follow the info from page 3, because their system is inflexible and had not allowed him to change page 2.

ACTION2: We wired 150 euros to Elumbus.

ACTION3: We made a new travel plan and bought tickets directly from the flight companies' websites (these tickets were not available on Elumbus). Both the Peruvian airlines as well as Bolivian Aerolineas redirected us to a Secured by Visa page during the payment process. Tickets were issued within minutes after clicking the Pay button on the Secured by Visa page. 

OBSERVATION4: Compared with Elumbus, these websites from Bolivia and Peru implement Secured by Visa in a way that it works properly and provides immediate feedback.

OBSERVATION5: Even though we speak much worse Spanish than German, understanding the terms and conditions of Peruvian airlines was far easier compared with those of Elumbus, as they have just one simple and clear page that we needed to agree to.

2nd of October
We noticed in the Easybank statement that Elumbus had been able to withdraw 8 EUR from the Easybank credit card on 22nd September, and the money had been returned on the same day. This means that we had definitely correctly filled in the information about the credit card.

3rd of October
We received an e-mail from Ms. Unpleasant, stating that we are not entitled to any vouchers, which completely contradicted earlier e-mails from both Mr. Primary Contact and Ms. Unpleasant. We tried to call Elumbus, but as it was a public holiday in Germany, there was nobody speaking English on the line. We agreed to contact them again. Additionally, we sent an email to Mr. Primary Contact asking him to inform Ms. Unpleasant about our agreement.

21st of October
We wanted to book a new flight within Chile. This flight was available on the Elumbus website, so I called them again, asked to be reconnected to Mr. Primary Contact and managed to reach him. Once again, I needed to remind him of the whole story. In the beginning he tried not to admit to our right to apply the 2x50 EUR vouchers, but reading from his original e-mail helped. He asked that we write him the information about the flight via e-mail. We wrote him all the details about the flight, including the price of 168.61 EUR per person, and asked him to book it for 118.61 EUR.

22nd of October
We did not get a reply from Mr. Primary Contact, so I called Elumbus again. The person on the phone was relatively nice and promised that Mr. Primary Contact would get back to us on the same day.

We received an e-mail from Mr. Primary Contact, but he quoted the price of 140 EUR per person, meaning only a 28 EUR discount per passenger.

I called Elumbus again, reaching a lady who was very insecure. She claimed that the 2x50 EUR discount could be used for intercontinental flights only, although she was unable show this in the terms and conditions. She recommended calling Mr. Teamleader, the team leader of the service department. Unfortunately, she was unable to connect me to him and asked me to call Elumbus again with selecting a different department.

I did as told and got connected to a completely new guy; the discussion was quite unfruitful and he did not explain much. He also insisted that the vouchers were only for intercontinental flights, but was unable to provide any evidence for this. He pointed us to the second page of the invoice, but when I read it to him, he also realized that there was nothing there about intercontinental flights. We had quite a long discussion during which I eventually threatened him a bit with writing to my friend who works at DTest, a Czech magazine for testing products. Suddenly, I heard a new voice saying: "Mr. Teamleader speaking".

Mr. Teamleader was a very business-oriented professional guy, and in less than 10 minutes, he managed to improve my view of Elumbus a bit. However, when I asked if the vouchers are indeed for intercontinental flights, he pointed us to a place on the Elumbus website (we needed to click on Buchung and in a new window click on Service Packete). A completely different voucher worth 20 EUR and that is indeed for intercontinental flights is mentioned there. So still, our vouchers should have been valid for any flight.

Even though we had nothing to do with the Service Standardpacket, this was the site that Mr. Teamleader pointed to for the conditions of our vouchers.

Additionally, many times he mentioned that the vouchers we received were completely from their good will and we actually had no entitlement for them. I did not elaborate that Mr. Primary Contact used the world "entitled" in his e-mail and that we explicitly conditioned the cancellation of the original flight with the right to the vouchers. Instead, as I was finally connected to a person with some rights and responsibilities, we could continue in finding the best way out of it. We had quite a good discussion where he claimed that the main reason for not applying the vouchers was the very low margin that they had on the flight we were trying to book. He offered that he could nonetheless lower the price to 128.11 EUR per person and we agreed. Also, he could apply the leftover 2x9.5 EUR on some other flight if he would have at least some margin to operate with.

Already on the phone I agreed that we would send him an e-mail confirming the price and so we did.

One hour later we received an e-mail with another error. They confirmed only one leg of the flight: from Punta Arenas to Puerto Montt (we wanted to fly to Santiago de Chile). The invoice claimed that the original price of the flight to Puerto Montt was 2x140.61 EUR, and this had been reduced to 2x128.11 EUR. We checked the prices on the Elumbus website to see what is going on. The price to Puerto Montt was supposed to be 120.61 EUR and price to Santiago was still 168.61.

We immediately replied that they had booked us a wrong/incomplete flight and also called them again. I was connected to quite a pleasant and helpful lady. She realized the mistake and changed our reservation free of charge, as tickets had not yet been issued. We were even able to check the change of reservation at Unfortunately, the lady was unable to tell us a new price, as Mr. Teamleader was no longer reachable and she needed to discuss the matter with him.

OBSERVATION6: As it was a flight where the plane would land and then continue to the next destination, both flights to Puerto Montt and Santiago de Chile had the same flight number. This was probably confusing for Elumbus, as the practice is not common in Europe.

OBSERVATION7: This time it was possible to change the booking without paying any fee.

We were still concerned about how they would handle the price of the ticket, together with the change of destination. We took an overnight bus to Buenos Aires and neither of us slept much. Usually, we don't sleep well on buses anyway, but this time we were also worried that Elumbus would demand extra money from us again.

The next day, to our big and positive surprise, we received an e-mail from Mr. Primary Contact offering the full flight for the reduced price of 128.11 EUR. We were very happy! We confirmed, wired the money, and the correct tickets were issued a couple of days later.

OBSERVATION8: Elumbus started using Laura's academic title towards the end of this story and this also seemed to be the point when Elumbus began to be more positive towards us. By the way, I really enjoyed starting the phone calls with: "I am speaking on behalf of Dr. Laura Sedman" :))))

All's well that ends well. This ordeal did not end completely well: we lost a lot of time in addition to 69 EUR and calling fees. Fortunately, calling via Skype was cheap. Also, it was quite a good practice in assertiveness and negotiations. 

We have a couple of tips for those who ever need to deal with Elumbus:
  • For getting your point through, calling is generally more effective than writing e-mails.
  • Calling Elumbus from Skype costs just 2.3 cents per minute.
  • Mr. Teamleader usually leaves the office at 8 P.M. (German time) and he seemed to be the only person able to authorize special requests.
  • Try to stay as calm as possible and always read all the details of every e-mail twice.
  • From going through various complaints we found online, money transfer (Überweisung) seems to be the most reliable form of payment. For this, we found only one complaint compared with many complaints about other forms of payment.
Originally we were thinking of spending some extra time on search engine optimization for this page and for Elumbus vorsicht. As we managed to partially apply our vouchers and Mr. Teamleader seemed to be a decent guy, we decided to do a bare minimum and leave the rest up to our readers. If you believe this information should get more spread, please post a link to the article and/or Elumbus vorsicht on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, ... 


  1. Wow! Epic battle! You are both real warriors, many others would probably have given up somewhere halfway...

  2. Something similar is now happening to me with this company Elumbus.

    Last thursday I bought a flight Vienna-Barcelona, i introduced my data in the system, in theory everything was ok but i didnt receive any email confirming the flight.
    The following day i received an email asking for photocopy of my id, of my credit card and a letter giving them permission to take the money from my account and the deadline for sending them was till 18.00 (is it a threath????)

    I wasnt home, therefore i couldnt send them required info. I emailed them that i wasnt home, i wouldnt be able to send the requested info, and if there were so many problems to book a flight they could cancel it and problem solved.

    They replied saying they give me time till the following day (today) till 12.00 and the fee for cancelling is 75 euros.
    So, i ask myself....they are asking me to give them writen permission to charge the flight from my bank account, but they threat methat the cancellation fee is 75 which they cant charge because i dont give them permission. Isnt it insane their incoherence????

    I answered i can send them a picture of my id through email or whatsapp, and now i am waiting for an answer. Actually i don't want to book this flight anymore and depending on their answer I will tell them that is their problem if they ask for so many documents which i cant provide cause i am not home, not my problem. So it is not that i want to cancell the flight, they are forcing me to cancel it with their unprofessionalism.

    I think they do all this on porpouse like to Laura and Radek. First Elumbus makes you believe that your flight is booked, then they send you an email asking you for info and data, time passes by and they know that they have you in their hands now. Now either you send the info in the right time or the price will increase. Then either you pay the diference, or pay the fee, and they know that the costumer will not try to book other flight because probably the prices will be more expensive in the website plus paying taxes again plus the charge for using credit card in the payment.

    Maybe this complaints are usefull for the flights searchers like swoodoo, rumbo, etc so that they don't want to work together with this ELUMBUS.

    I feel tricked and very bothered.

    I will let you know what happened finally

    1. Hi,

      As you could read, we had exactly the same problem and were thinking the same. I would recommend agreeing on sending them money using wire/SEPA transfer (in German Überweisung) as soon as possible. You have unfortunately agreed to theirs terms and conditions and from what we read on the web, unless you pay they will send a collecting agency after you soon!!!

      Good luck,

    2. I'm really sorry that you've found yourself in this mess. Best of luck with sorting it all out!