Air France — Flying and lying
If you're going to fly Air France, remember to bring a hidden tape recorder. That's because many of the promises you hear won't be honored.
I can only point to my own experiences as an example. On a recent flight from Pisa, Italy, to New York with a connection in Paris, the first lie was told in Pisa. The Pisa Paris flight was late, and both my family and some other Italians making the same connection feared missing it.
"Don't worry," said the agent at check in. When you arrive in Paris, there will be an Air France agent waiting for you as you debark, and a special minibus will take all of you to the waiting flight to New York." Wow. Three lies in one sentence. Needless to say, no agent was waiting, there was no special minibus, and the New York flight did not wait. I told the agent I was a type one diabetic, and that surprises tended to create problems. She assured me that a special message would be sent to Paris just for me. Another lie.
The plane hovered around a lot before landing, eating up another forty five minutes. As we disembarked, an Italian couple joined us in the race to the gate when we found no one there to help us, and no minibus. My wife, who has never traveled alone, was stressed looking after our two toddlers, and this couple became very helpful. After nearly another half an hour of brisk exercise, we arrived at a customer service desk. Feeling faint, I stressed to the agent that I could be in big trouble with the diabetes, and using a portable meter, measured a drop of blood in front of him. Seeing 45, when normal lower limits are 80, I employed him to call me emergency medical services. "When we finish re-booking the rest of these passengers," he said. My new Italian friends rolled their eyes, and said to me in Italian, "this is criminal...".
In fact, in Europe, refusing aid to someone who needs it, is. But one of the things that happens to some diabetics in crisis, like me, is a sort of apathy. I simply didn't care. Twenty or so minutes later, as I began to see colors, and the voices around me started to develop hollow echos, I began to panic. I begged him to call emergency medical aid a second time, and stressed to him that it really was an emergency. My slurred speech may have had some effect, but all he called was a wheelchair attendant, who sped me through the checkers, thankfully after grabbing me a sandwich at a fast food place, and onto the plane with a special elevator truck. Although I managed to eat the food, I still only came back to my senses after the plane was in the air. My wife and children were next to me, in tears.
Customer relations, aside from being only accessible by mail, informed me that they would investigate. Subsequently, they contacted me to say that as a result of their inquiry, they'd found that the agent at the customer service desk had suggested to me that he call emergency medical services, and I'd refused. The wheelchair attendant had asked me if I wanted to be seen by a doctor, and that also then, I'd refused help.
The Italian couple stayed by my side until we passed them in line waiting to be checked, because of the privilege afforded by a wheelchair, and saw and heard everything. They have promised to testify to the refusal of aid. It is only through this unexpected stroke of luck that I have a prayer of demonstrating the truth to the civil aviation authorities investigating this matter. Otherwise, as Air France probably knows through extensive experience (visible on the web, search Air France Complaints), it would have been just my word against theirs.
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