Air France: Worst Airline Ever

Forgive me for writing this while I am still a bit salty. I have hated Air France for a very long time. Their planes are uncomfortable, their service is shoddy, their frequent flier program is lousy and in general I hate everything about them. However, I live in Paris, so I have to fly them to many destinations I want to go. Even worse I have to both fly Air France AND transit CDG (aka my least favorite airport in the world).

The events of today MAY have put me over the edge with this sorry excuse for an airline.

I had two ORY-NCE round trips in the system. One for May 28 returning May 30 and one for July 23 returning Aug. 1. I called Air France to change my May 28 to May 29th. They told me no problem, the flights had been changed. The flights were changed…however, they changed my JULY 23rd FLIGHT to May 29th and let my May 28th flight expire paid for and un-flown. As a result my July 23rd flight ceased to exist. It never even occurred to me that an agent (even an Air France agent) could be so positively incompetent, so I never checked the system to verify my July 23rd reservation was still on file.

Luckily, this week I checked, only to find that my booking locator and name did not bring up any results. Since airfrance.fr is as bad as the airline, I had to use (FlyingBlue partner KLM’s website) klm.com to discover what Air France had done. There, the booking locator informed me that the travel on that reference # had already been completed.

First I e-mailed Air France. They sent me a stock response blaming flight delays/cancellations on the weather…clearly they read the text in my complaint. Then I tried Air France’s French #. The system promptly hung up on me. Finally, I called the U.S. based 1-800 #…it was before 8 AM U.S. time, so no one answered the phones. This is a GLOBAL airline with service to five continents AND French Polynesia…how is it possible that their call center for one of he most populated countries on earth is NOT open 24 hours? It boggles the mind.

When I finally got an agent on the phone after 8 AM EST, I was told in call center accented English that since I made my booking on airfrance.fr (the airline’s website) instead of over the phone specifically with the airline’s U.S. call center, they could not do anything to help me, and I would have to call the French call center that deals only with bookings made online through airfrance.fr. The kafka-esque nature of this absurd airline had me ready to throw my phone out the window by this point. After unleashing a string of obscenities and vowing never to fly Air France again, I hung up the phone beaten and defeated, and booked a new ORY-NCE revenue ticket.

I’m not saying you can’t fight city hall, but it’s better to protect yourself when dealing with rigid, expansive bureaucracy like Air France.

In a perfect world I will get my money back and maybe some miles for my trouble. In all likelihood I will get a few form emails and automated call center responses that disconnect me before I get satisfaction. I have three round trips booked on Air France this month. After that, I will do my best to NEVER book on this airline again. I think I will go burn my elite card to celebrate. Good riddance.

Some other reasons why Air France is horrible:

– They are rolling out an “enhanced” intra-euro coach seat. The “enhancement” is that it is lighter so Air France saves $ on fuel. The passenger however pays the same fare (or higher) and the seat has less cushioning and is not capable of reclining. Thanks for looking out for us!

– Air France Flying Blue miles CANNOT be redeemed for First Class tickets on ANY SkyTeam partner airlines. This makes them worth roughly nothing.

– Air France charges 300,000 miles for a First Class Award ticket on Air France from JFK-CDG. By comparison, First Class across the Atlantic on a far superior Star Alliance carrier like Swiss would run 135,000.

– While British Airways rolled out 180 degree flat beds in Business Class roughly 10 years ago, Air France still offers angled seats that are terribly uncomfortable. In response to their industry lagging product Air France responded by announcing they would install new business class seats…however, they chose yet another outdated angled design, ensuring their business class will be amongst the worst in Europe for at least another decade. What a value for 3,000-4,000 euro!

– Even after paying the usurious prices AF charges for their dated Business product, they want 75,000 miles each way ON TOP of the 4,000 euro to upgrade from Business to First. 75,000 EACH WAY! This is because they guard the First Class cabin tightly to ensure that the Captain’s wife, cousin, dog walker and anyone who has ever delivered mail to AF HQ can have free seats in First while their frequent fliers get nothing.

– AF charges ridiculous surcharges and fees on award tickets, to the point that the fees often total close to the same price as outright buying the ticket would be without wasting miles. Again, proving their miles are useless and their frequent flier program is a joke.

– AF has awful coverage to the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

– AF’s main hub is CDG, which is perhaps the worst airport ever created.

– Air France has a questionable safety record. They have had far more serious incidents as of late than most major carriers. The GIG-CDG A330 Crash and the aircraft that overran the runway in Toronto and narrowly averted disaster both come to mind as recent examples.

– As noted in an earlier blog post, Air France nearly killed me due to shoddy piloting that resulted in a missed approach.

– I’m sure if I spent more time ruminating I could fill pages with complaints about Air France, but for now lets leave it at this, horrible customer service, horrible hard product, mediocre soft product. Basically, the only good thing I can think to say about them is once they upgraded me from Business to First for free…maybe they thought I was the Captain’s son.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Air France: Worst Airline Ever

  1. Air France: making the sky the worst place on earth, my experience with them, flying with kids, really it was horrible! 10 hours flying with my baby (4 months) in my arms: http://bit.ly/nZpWRI

  2. Veronica

    THE WORST EVER I fully agree and actually when I wrote my review to post it in the SKY whatever page there was a message obstruction the review because of Legal Issue I’m really wondering if they find out that the cherry of the cake for all passengers is when after a complete night mare on the trip because of numerous reasons than you realized they have lost your luggage and you are provided with a crappy survival kit .

    This is the summary of events, and i think I was short of space to comment: 1 Overbooked flights,
    2 Bad connections, in Paris
    3 Complete disaster to transfer from one gate to the other the
    4 Time calculated to do the transfer is never set up correctly.
    5 A 14 hr. trip turn out to be a 27 hour trip.
    6 And not to forget the Luggage, did not arrive
    7 And if it wasn’t enough the stroller of my kid completely destroyed.

    By the way VERY CONVENIENT NOT TO be able to MENTION ABOUT THE lost baggage in the Review page of the Airline..

  3. canoock

    I fully agree – there is no worse airline then Air France. Worse even than Aeroflot.

  4. Kristen

    As I am sitting in my sardine economy seat, I am finding solace in reading that I am not crazy. This airline blows. Seriously my knees are so up against the seat in front of me that I’m losing circulation. Sitting sideways is the only way I can sit.

    And they charged me 100euro for a second bag. I’m traveling to Asia where I live. I’ve been on a 3week business trip-3 very different climates. No airline has even batted an eye, but I rock up to the counter flying them for the first time in this trip and smuggly was told 100euro.

    They just suck!

  5. Kowalski

    Worst air line I flew – ever. We landed from Toronto in Paris in the morning. My whole family had tickets purchased 6 months ago – for Air France flight Toronto – Paris – Warsaw. When we landed in Paris we were blocked by Air France security personnel and told that there is no seats for us on the plane departing to Warsaw. Meanwhile they were letting all local people to board the plane to Warsaw. Huge groups of people. Boarding the plane in front of us. When we were kept behind the barrier. Tired after an overnight flight from Toronto, we had to wait 6 hours for another plane to Warsaw. We were told by Air France we will get in – IF there are empty seats – IF we are lucky. The same happened to people from Chicago and LA. There was few families like us that where denied boarding a fligth to Warsaw. Thank you Air France. Stay away. They have computers everywhere and huge mess. And they don’t know what is going on. You can buy a ticket 6 months in advance and still they don’t seem to know there is supposed to be a seat for you on their plane.

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