Air France — Stay away from Air France!
I had booked an Air France flight from London Heathrow to Delhi (India) departing on 17 Dec 2008 and returning on 17 Jan 2009. On 17th December 2008, I was travelling by Air France from London to Delhi. The journey involved a change-over of flights in Paris.
The flight from London Heathrow to Paris CDG was AF 1981. It was scheduled to leave at 06.40 (London time), and arrive in Paris CDG at 09.00 (Paris time). From there I was supposed to catch the connecting flight AF 148, scheduled to leave Paris CDG at 10.25 (Paris time), and arrive in Delhi at 23.00 (Delhi time) on 17th December 2008 night. But the flight from London to Paris, AF 1981, was delayed and it arrived in Paris at 12.21 (Paris time). This led to my missing the connecting flight, AF 0148, to Delhi on 17th December 2008.
My flight from LHR to Paris CDG (AF 1981) was delayed by several hours. I was told that the flight crew did not have the stipulated rest as was supposed to as the reason for the delay. Due to the delayed departure from Heathrow my connecting flight from Paris CDG to Delhi (AF 148) was missed. The Air France staff at Heathrow made a public announcement promising that flight from Paris CDG to Delhi (AF 148) is being delayed for us; so that passengers will be able to catch onward flight AF 148 to Delhi.
Surprisingly, when we reached Paris, Air France staff informed us that flight AF 148 had already departed. And that at no point of time they had communicated to their counterparts in LHR that flight AF 148 is delayed; for us to be able to catch it. It is disappointing to know that such a reputed airline does not operate transparently and just for their own convenience they had put so many passengers into trouble. So if the airline staff was aware that the flight AF 148 is not being delayed – they should not have flown me to Paris. The flight was destined to a non-EU country and therefore it was highly unlikely that passengers like me will have the right to enter Paris without having a transit/ Schengen visa.
When I bought the ticket from Air France, I entered into a contract with Air France which included the airline getting me to Delhi on the 17th Dec itself. I had no intention of entering or staying in France, and for that reason I had not gone through the trouble of getting a Schegen visa. It was Air France’s fault that they had delayed the LHR to Paris CDG flight because of which I missed my connecting flight. The immigration (police) officials at Paris decided not to grant me a (like many other fellow passengers) transit visa to stay overnight in a hotel in Paris.
It is also surprising that Air France staff at Paris CDG had poor communication skills. Paris CDG, being an international airport, the Air France staff should have been well conversant in English – most of Air France ground staff lacked the basic language skills. They were unable to understand the passengers and could not communicate properly.
I had left my house 3.30am (UK time) to catch my flight from LHR to Paris CDG. I had not eaten anything in the morning and just got a croissant in the flight AF 1981. Till about 4pm CET, we were left stranded at Paris CDG airport with no one providing us any food or water. Air France staff did not even realize that the passengers are hungry and thirsty and it is their responsibility to provide them the necessities. These are basic human understandings. These should have been provided without even anyone asking for it. The passengers had to fight for even these basics. I believe that the staff behavior was highly inappropriate. At last, when the Air France staff did manage to get a few sandwiches, most of it was non-vegetarian. Most of the passengers on the other hand including myself were vegetarian. I could not even get a sandwich to eat as the staff ran out of vegetarian sandwiches. Until about 10pm CET I had to survive on few chocolates I had in my handbag. The dinner we were provided was also very inappropriate. There was just a vending machine at the terminal where we were stranded but I did not have any Euros to use it.
Under such circumstances it is also the airline’s responsibility to provide calling cards to passengers so that the passengers could at the least inform their family members of the situation. My friends, family members and relatives in the UK as well as Delhi were so worried about my well being. The airline had very few calling cards which they soon ran out off. I could not get hold of a calling card.
My troubles did not end here. On my return flight (AF 147 & AF 1080) on 17 Jan 2009 my checked-in baggage was torn.
Under the circumstances specified above, as per EU laws, it is also the legal responsibility of Air France to inform me of my rights and information about where to complain. No such information was provided by Air France to me at any point of time.
For choosing to fly Air France, after paying for it, I was harassed in all possible ways. Stranded for approximately 24 hours in an airport with no blanket, no proper seating arrangement, nothing to eat or drink causing so much mental and physical stress to me in addition to the worries of my friends and family members. Additionally, we were moved from terminal to terminal by the security staff because of which we could not even rest properly at night. This was not only my worst ever flying experience but my worst life experience – thanks to Air France.
After retuning to UK; I lodged a written complaint to Air France Customer Service. I have received no response so far.
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