Air FranceKafka-esque refund runaround


Important info for fellow AirFrance abusees: the SECRET NUMBER for the AF refund department is [protected]. Fax is [protected]. This information is not published on their website for obvious reasons.

I am a business-class traveller to Paris with regularity. Don't usually take the time to write gripe letters and have never before posted on a complaint board. Most of the time, time is better spent in moving forward, not looking back.

AF is the exception to the rule. My first and last AF flight was in October 2007, Dulles-to-Paris. My route since has since been and forever will be BA to Heathrow, car service into Waterloo, Chunnel to Gare du Nord.

Never never ever again Air France!

It is June 2008 as I write this and I am still dealing with the refund request made for a Paris-to-Dulles return flight that AF cancelled in October 2007 when their flight attendants went on strike. Getting off the continent was a nightmare. CdeG airport looked like a refugee camp and AF staff were totally unhelpful, stunningly incompetent and gratuitously rude. Actually, I didn't mind nearly so much for myself -- a reasonably hardened business traveler -- as for the thousands of vacationers, elderly in velcroed shoes and couples with young kids from all around the world -- who were standing in the airport, simply stunned at their treatment.

AF failed to respond for months either to my emailed or mailed refund submissions or to American Express, to whom I submitted copies of my AF inquiries to dispute the full RT charge that AF had posted to my account. I eventually received a letter from Amex saying that, because AF had failed to respond to them within their time limit, they were crediting my account for the entire RT airfare. This actually was fair given that the actual cost of getting back to the US -- returning to the hotel from CdeG via taxi, another hotel night, taxi to train station the next AM, Chunnel to London, taxi to Heathrow and last-minute high-price BA ticket to get home -- in fact exceeded the total RT fare on AF.

Then, however, in April 2008, I received an email from Amex saying that AF had resubmitted the charge (for the full RT fare!) and asking for my response. Concomitantly, I received an email from AF -- a "do not reply to this automated email, " with an attachment that included no person's name, no address and no phone or email -- demanding that I explain why I was due a refund for my return flight from CdeG to Dulles on October X. They must have forgotten about the strike. I was dumbfounded. (AmEx is not blameless in this mess, but that's a different story. Would any cardholder be permitted to dispute a settled charge 6+ months later? Apparently, there is no statute of limitations on merchants' claims.)

I have again filed all paperwork and submitted claim forms, as AF has no record of previous submissions. Just received another anonymous AF email yesterday in which AF allows as to how it has my return trip refund under consideration, but advising that it will not reimburse for any costs of getting home that were significantly above and beyond their return fare because I could produce only COPIES of air and train tickets and hotel bills, not the ORIGINALS -- the originals, of course, having been submitted last October to the company on whose behalf I was traveling and which have long since been shredded in the accounting department.

I give up. The disputed amount is less than a rounding error in the world of business travel, and the company that actually bore these costs is more than fine with just letting this all go rather than waste more of my and their time. AF wins by wearing us all down. I have no more time for this other than venting through my first-ever complaint board posting, and the certainty that none of I, my family or my employees will ever again board an AF flight.

Bonne chance to all AF fliers; you'll need it!


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