Flight AF 267 from Seoul to Paris, which I experienced on January 12, 2008, was extremely uncomfortable. The Boeing 777 used for this flight had a seating arrangement installed for economy that borders on the inhuman. It is patently not suitable for 10-12 hour flights. It was like a kind of torture.
I am not a large person. I am just 75 kgs and I'm under 6 feet tall, but what I was expected to fit into gave me practically not moving space at all. I don't even believe in such conditions when it comes to livestock animals, and yet here I was reduced to the same kind of confinement. I find it hard to believe that anyone else could find this restricted space acceptable. Why do people put up with it?
After arriving in Paris, we transfered to a flight to Nice on what I believe was an Airbus A320. This aircraft actually had leg room, by which I mean room for a pair of average legs plus some extra space for leg movement. This kind of aircraft would have been much better for the Seoul to Paris flight.
What made Seoul Incheon to Paris all the worse was the rude and inconsiderate passengers in the row in front of me, who were French, by the way, not Korean. As soon as these rude individuals sat down they inclined their seats as far back as they would go, and that's how they stayed for the duration of the flight. That reduced my space considerably. Sometimes the guy in front of my was bouncing on his seat as if to try and force it back further.
I had to get out to stretch at one point and upon my return I looked at the space I was expected to fit in by and I just couldn't believe it. I actually went and inspected other rows to check that my seating was not worse then everyone else's.
Does Air France use such a torturous seating arrangement because it's a Korean flight and because there is a mistaken belief that Koreans are smaller than Caucasians? It is true that the Japanese are smaller on average than Caucasians, and it might have once been true of Koreans, but it is not true of the average Korean anymore, especially the males. Air France needs to adjust its policy, not just for Caucasians like me flying out of Korea, but for Koreans, too.
On top of everything an incident occurred that could only be described as discrimination. My wife, who is Korean, was like me finding the confinement of the seating hard to cope with. By the way, she is somewhat smaller than me, and even she found it torturous. The woman in front of her ignored any protest. At one point, it got too much for my wife and she asked one of the stewards to get the person in front to put her seat up. The steward simply shrugged and did nothing. However, later, my wife noticed a steward asking a Korean passenger to put their seat up at the request of someone seated behind them.
Is there a special rule for French passengers and another rule for everyone else? It would seem so because, to add insult to injury, the rude people in front of us were not even made to put their seats up during meal service. Putting seats upright is usually a standard requirement on all airlines at meal times. Why does Air France not practice this policy? Do you have any idea how difficult it is to eat a meal when the person in front of you has the seat back as far as it will go?
Another issue that made flight AF 267 a draining experience was that the video screens on the seats were not of a consistent size. It seem completely random as to who got a good screen and who didn't. Some people had new larger screens while others like me, who presumably paid the same price for a ticket, got a tiny old fashion screen that was like watching an iPod. This only added to the resentment of the conditions I was expected to endure.
Air France has a monopoly on direct flights to Paris from Korea, so I presume the airline believes it can get away with anything. However, I suggest that Air France should rethink their seating policies and upgrade their fleet. I certainly won't be taking the direct route to Paris again on Air France until I hear that conditions are better.
To learn how to improve Air France need only look and learn from the Koreans. The flight back from Paris was magical with Korean Air compared to the torture of getting there with Air France. With Korean Air, people in economy have more space. The video screens were the largest I had ever seen and the viewing selections the widest range I have ever seen. There must have been about 20 to 30 movies to watch. The staff ensures seats are upright at meal times and were courteous at all times.
I won't go on because, quite frankly, what the French could learn from Koreans, in terms of customer service, transport and consideration of others, would fill an entire book.