Shit happened


 

(or why I am blogging in France tonight instead of being awake in the middle of the night because of jetlag in Japan)

If you follow my other blogs a little bit (Ogijima and David in France) you must know that yesterday was supposed the day I moved to Japan.

Well, that didn’t happen courtesy of everything going wrong and a few people not doing their jobs properly.

Where should I start?

Why not by the fact that Air France was on strike these past few days (When are they not on strike? Good question). One thing you need to know is that I strongly dislike Air France (this is almost a euphemism actually). Most foreigners (and even a bunch of French people) tend to worship Air France for some reason, but they’re getting it all wrong (or I have been very very very unlucky with Air France).
I assume that foreigners in that situation haven’t flown much with the airline and just the word “France” in the name is enough to trigger their imagination with the usual clichés about the country.
The French who love Air France are usually unrepentant patriots, who will support anything that is French regardless of whether the thing is actually good or bad, and/or French people who haven’t really flown with other airlines and who think that the subpar quality of Air France service is actually normal because they have nothing to compare it with.

Well, I do.

I have flown with about a dozen airlines in my life (Air France, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, US Air, Delta, American Airlines, Continental, United Airlines, South West Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Asiana Airlines, I think that’s all of them, I may be forgetting a couple) and Air France is definitely the one that sucks the most.

Planes are usually not with the best equipment. I even flew on a Boeing 747 in the early 2000’s that felt like it was from the 70’s (I mean, the cabin equipment, the plane itself most likely was).
Customer Service? Well, we’re talking about a French company here, I don’t think I need to detail more, do I? (Actually, I will in this very post).

However, what I hate the most with Air France are their flight attendants.

They simply don’t seem to be aware aware that we’re not in the 60’s anymore. You know back when flying was an exceptional thing, and being a flight attendant was this sort of mythical job that made little girls dream. Air France flight attendants still think that their status make people envious of them, and they are so pretentious, so full of themselves and so snotty that even looking at one is painful at times.
I have never seen flight attendants being so condescending with passengers than Air France’s flight attendants. They seem to be spending their flights showing off and parading, instead of doing what they are supposed to do, that is serving and helping passengers, not acting like they’re better than them.

Oh, did I mention that this week’s Air France strike was actually flight attendants being on strike?

There’s one other thing that you need to know about people being on strike in France. When white collar people are on strike in France, don’t start thinking that they’re picketing and other similar things people on strike do. No, they’re at home in their bed or on their couch watching TV. Also, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against people going on strike. Most blue collar strikes and civil servants strikes are justified in France, even if this gives us a bad reputation abroad (mostly because striking is misunderstood from abroad).
But when those overpaid arrogant idiots go on strike and are not even in the airport where you could tell them what you think about their spoiled bratty behavior, I suddenly have a very different feeling about striking.

My flight, the way it was supposed to be.

Ok, with that being said, back to yesterday. The details of my flight were as follow:

  • Bordeaux to Paris with Air France, flight leaves at 4PM.
  • Paris to Seoul with Asiana Airlines, flight leaves at 8PM.
  • Last leg was Seoul to Takamatsu with Asiana, but it’s not part of our story for today.

My flight, the way it (didn’t) happen.

With the strike in mind, I double-checked, triple checked my flight on the web and it was not cancelled.
Still, to be sure, we arrived at Bordeaux airport at noon. The flight was there, on the departure board, nothing special next to it, no “cancelled” no “delayed”, nothing, just “check-in”. I asked an Air France person whose job was to smile to customers and answer their questions and she confirmed me that the flight was there fine.

Great news!

We went to have lunch in a restaurant nearby and went back at around 2PM. I had heard that on the previous days, some flights hadn’t been cancelled but due to the lack of flight attendants on board, they wouldn’t let all the passengers board the plane. We were not going to take any chance so being there two hours early seemed like a sensible thing to do.

We checked in our baggage and started waiting.

Just a few minutes later I received a text message from Air France telling me that the flight would be an hour late!

Uh?

There was still nothing on the flight information board. However, I went to ask an employee and she confirmed the delay.

A little worried, I decided to call Asiana in Paris to make sure that there wouldn’t be a problem, and then the lady from Asiana informed me that my plane was not leaving at 8PM at all but at 7PM!

The schedule had changed recently (after I had booked my flight) and she was suprised that I was not aware of that change. I must have had been warned about it. Except that it never happened.

It was not too hard to do the math. We would arrive in Paris at 6.30PM at best, and check in for the Asiana flight closed at 6PM, with boarding at about 6.30PM. Not mentioning that the flight from Bordeaux would arrive at Terminal 2 and the Asiana flight would leave from Terminal 1 (if you know Charles-de-Gaulle airport, it does take a while to transfer from one terminal to the other), add in all the waiting times at security checks and stuff to the equation and you got the result:

Screwed! We were simply screwed!

I went to talk to somebody at Air France to double check the delay. I called Asiana again to make sure that there weren’t any misunderstanding (there weren’t). Nope, there was no way on earth that we could catch the flight to Seoul.

But our baggage was already checked in and in a container somewhere waiting for the delayed plane to land so that it can be shipped to Paris! I rushed to the check-in again, a guy – apparently a manager of some sort – was helpful and managed to cancel our check-in and called to have our baggage unloaded.

Meanwhile we called the travel agency that had sold us our tickets with Asiana to have them cancelled as the woman at Asiana said she couldn’t, only they could. They didn’t know anything about us not being informed about the departure time change.

We went to get our baggage. It soon arrived, except… Except that one of the suitcase’s handle was broken.

At that moment of the story yours truly was boiling inside, not much was needed for all of that to explode (and if you know me I don’t explode easily).
The woman who was there in charge of the baggage or something told me that her service couldn’t claim responsibility for the damage.
And that was the first of the several last straws of that day.

I don’t remember what I yelled at her, but it was not pleasant (I did my best to not insult her directly, but I was not that considerate for her company and her co-workers on strike). She told me that I had to go see Customer Service and so did I.

It will be hard to describe the conversation I had with the guy at customer service as it was lengthy, a bit Kafkaesque and yelling was involved too. I can tell you what resulted from it though:
-The baggage situation couldn’t be dealt with him but with the service where I was told to go talk to him (Want to make me mad? Tell me just that).
-I couldn’t get a refund on my ticket as my flight was not delayed because of the strike, but because of bad weather in Paris, and it had been delayed since early morning (it was a plane going back and forth Bordeaux and Paris several times during the day).
In that case, how come check-in told me it was because of the strike?
If it had been delayed since the morning, how come the information board at noon said nothing about it?
See what I mean when I say that Air France is full of shit and has terrible customer service among other many terrible things?

The only thing that the guy could do for me was to refund airport taxes but he clearly didn’t want to do it, it was tedious paperwork for just a few Euros. Of course I made him do it. I didn’t care about the few Euros, I just wanted him to do his job for a change, especially if it was tedious busy work.

One more thing about Air France customer service. You know, when you have a good customer service and when you have to deal with a customer who is angry because your company messed up, what you do is basically politely answer “yes” to all of his trash talking and try to fix the problem as well and as smoothly as you can.
Guess what he did when I started to talk trash about his shitty company? He started defending it over me. Note that I made sure to attack his company and never him as a person, I even underlined it.

Jerk!

Finally, I went back to Baggage Service. I don’t know what look I had on my face at that moment, but the ladies working there instantly called their manager who soon arrived. And… this was the only positive thing of the day, as the manager was the guy who cancelled my flight and called to get my baggage back about an hour earlier. When he saw the shape of my suitcase (as well as our shape, if I was mad as hell as that moment, 康代 was basically in tears from all of that stress and bullshit) he instantly told his co-worker – the woman who previously gave me my baggage back – to do the paperwork so that we can try to have some money back for the damaged suitcase although it was unlikely we would.

I find it ironic and very hypocritical that Air France gets to decide what they are liable for and what they’re not when they break something. And off the record, I’m sure he did too.

Actually this man was the only one person of the 10 or so I talked to during this whole ordeal who was genuinely nice and concerned about our situation. I didn’t even get to thank him as he almost ran away being called somewhere else.

So thank you sir, wherever you are. You were the only ray of light during that crappy crappy day.

Now, here we are, back at home in France instead of starting our new life in Japan.

The positive thing is that we managed to have things sorted out with the travel agent and Asiana.

I’m still not sure who messed up and didn’t warn us of the time change, but the travel agent (who is Japanese) rescheduled our Paris-Seoul-Takamatsu flight for Monday, and even bought us a Bordeaux-Paris flight for free! (which is good because I swore to never give another penny to Air France again and I plan on sticking to my word).

  • Air France messes up: We get a shitty day having verbal arguments with condescending people who won’t help us and not even refund our flight.
  • Asiana and/or the Japanese travel agent messes up: We get a free of charge rescheduling and a free flight with another airline with whom they have no agreement (i.e. they’re paying for it).

Air France you are an embarrassment to my country and I sincerely hope to never have to deal with you again after Monday.

On a final note, there is something with me and my trips when moving abroad. While I never really had any big problem when flying for vacation and such, every time I move somewhere, I get a crazy day full of incidents. One day I’ll tell you about the day I moved to the US, as well as the day when I moved to Florida.

And I’m not in Japan yet, so let’s knock on wood until Monday.


About David Billa

David was born and raised in the French South West. After a few years in the US and a few more in Paris, he finally settled down in Japan. He blogs here about his various experiences and travels, with an emphasis on his home country, France.

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2 thoughts on “Shit happened

  • Ifeelyourpain

    And here I was thinking Qantas (Australia’s national airline) was the worst in the world. It sounds like they are the same airline. I could actually substitute Qantas for Air France and the experience would be true.

    Qantas has also been on strike this week, the CEO decided to be an ass and ground all flights world wide. Also they have permanently cancelled the direct route from Perth to Tokyo which means I need to fly to the other side of my country (almost 4000km) to get to Japan. What was once a nine hour direct flight (overnight so I can sleep and arrive fresh for business the next morning) is now between 15 and 21 hours depending on which East Coast city you fly to. Now that is freakin ridiculous!!!!!

    I hope your travel plans runs more smoothly next week.
    <3
    A fellow traveller

    • David

      I heard about Qantas strike. But Qantas is at least half-decent when they’re not on strike, aren’t they?

      That sucks that you have to go cross country now. Aren’t there any flights via HK or Singapore or somewhere else that you could take so that you don’t have to go to Sydney (I assume that you are far from Sydney or Melbourne and this is where you need to go now)?