I HATE AIR FRANCE
July 11, 2011 3 Comments
I actually hate most European airlines but I hate Air France most of all, because they always frustrate and disappoint me.
Living near Bordeaux I am pretty much a captured client for Air France as the Bordeaux airport authority has managed to drive most other airlines into relocating to Toulouse through greed and overconfidence about their own importance. We have recently lost Alitalia and Lufthansa to Toulouse making Bordeaux flights to Italy and Germany necessitate a connection through Paris Charles De Gaulle (Paris-CDG) airport.
Paris-CDG was designed by a team of French Engineers who not only hate people who travel, but who to amuse themselves, have ensured that even when you don’t need to change airlines, you still need to move from one end of this massive multi-terminal complex to the furthest possible corner for any connecting flight. As well as this challenge of distance, and despite the fact that you have just disembarked from a flight, you will now need to go through the delay, and strip, of security scanning at least one more time to get to your connecting gate. This process design took significant help from some of the best mathematical modelling minds in the country to ensure that this complexity would apply to the vast majority of travellers at any time, making the airport look like a jogging track for a horde of fully dressed, sweating, confused and harassed suitcase testers.
It is therefore little wonder to me that Air France, my most frustrating Airline, should be based at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, considered to be the worst airport in the world, regularly beating out London’s Heathrow for the #1 slot in annual traveller surveys.
Air France TV advertising consists of an attractive young couple in swimsuits sitting on some comfortable lounger chairs by an infinity pool, which turns out to be positioned as being synonymous with seats 8A and 8B on some mythical Air France flight. I have sat in both seats at different times and they are unlike any lounger chair that I have ever sat in. If you are in 8A, the basketball player in 9A will have his knees pressed through the brightly coloured unpadded burlap which is the back of your seat, the rugby player in 7A will have managed to break the angle control mechanism on his seat and is now lying on your lap in the only position that enables him to squeeze into an amount of leg-room meant for Japanese schoolgirls, and the traveller to the obesity clinic in 8B (never an attractive young woman in a swimsuit) will have lifted the armrests to enable him to squeeze into a seat width designed for an anorexic pygmy. At this point, to be able to fit into your seat at all,your bottom is halfway up the side wall and your left buttock is perched on the aircraft window. As a result the cabin crew will now come and admonish you that you must be properly seated for take-off, and that the luggage handlers will not approach the aircraft to load the bags for fear that your buttocks could break through and shower them with glass.
The announcements and safety demonstrations will now cover information on the procedure for “landing on water”, more properly termed crashing, as the word “landing” by definition involves land, and instructions on how to use the seat belt in the belief that the flying public have never been in a car before and all got to the airport unharnessed in bullock carts. There will also be an announcement that the cabin crew who are wearing red badges saying “Safety and Security” are there for that purpose and not for trying to date, as was the case in my younger days. All Air France cabin crew now wear these badges as they have replaced name tags as standard wear meaning that we have no ability to report a particular individual for rudeness over and above their call of duty,for example. (See “Managing your Career” posted July 14, 2010).
The problem is that Air France tends to see us as passengers rather than customers.
I have no problem with Easyjet and Ryanair considering me a passenger as they are really running buses with wings. Their image is that the flight will be uncomfortable, you will have to fight others for a seat, you will have to pay for anything extra such as food, drink and luggage (and the loo if Ryanair get their way), but that they will get you their safely and inexpensively, and they generally deliver on these commitments.
On the other hand, Air France tries to convince you that you will be treated as a valued client which is not the case at all. Apart from the allocated seats (done to help identify crash victims) and the free instant coffee andsynthetic snacks (which will confirm your suspicions about what happens in France with recycled matter), Air France is only different to the low cost airlines in their pricing.
If I was a valued customer I would be welcomed on board by name (it’s on my boarding pass and they check every one as we board), I would get seating that matches what I have input into my profile rather than at the whim of their booking system, I would not have to share my seat with the anchor man for the Hawaiian Tug-of-War team, I would have a seat that had some pitch rather than the new Air France short haul planes that have seats that are locked in the upright setting, I would have enough leg-room to not have my knees in my nostrils, the crew would not treat me like a naughty schoolboy, my seat would not cause back pain, andI would have a hook for my jacket. There would also be enough overhead luggage space for all passengers, and not just for the first 20 pushy ones who have boarded quickly to capture all available slots for themultiple bagsthey have sneaked on as cabin baggage, in the often valid fear that anychecked bags that pass through Paris-CDG could end up somewhere totally different than they will, thus sending Uncle Jacque’s ashes and urn to Buenos Ares, even though he had previously never ventured further than Nantes.
I am looking forward to the day when teleportation becomes a reality or someone with a better service attitude, like Ariana Afghan Airlines, decides to fly out of Bordeaux.
Until then I will have to continue flying with the world’s most disappointing airline.