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.