Over the last year or so I've been travelling quite a bit for work. One of the things you discover if you travel a lot for business is that it can make sense to stick to one or two carriers. In my case I chose Air France. They fly to most international destinations and are part of a group, so, for a number of reasons, they made quite a good choice. They also have a comfortable premium economy class, which makes a big difference if you're flying to Singapore or the US.
My relationship with Air France has become a bit of a "love / hate" one.
And this is all due to their rather silly policies.
Let me explain.
I recently went to Montenegro on holiday. Getting there involved multiple changes, so I was semi-expecting my bag to get lost along the way (it did), but I wasn't expecting to end up spending a night in Paris along the way.
In theory I had just under an hour to make my connection in Paris to Belgrade. However, as I discovered, that is impossible. When you fly in to Paris from Dublin with Air France (CityJet) you go in via Terminal 2E. However Terminal 2E is very very big and the physical distance from where your plane lands to its parking position is significant. You then have to transfer to a bus to take you to the terminal building, so it can easily take 30 minutes from when the plane lands before you even reach the main terminal building. My flight to Belgrade was leaving from a different terminal, so when I got to the transfer desk they knew there was no way that I could possibly make the connection.
At this point Air France truly impressed me with their customer service. They found me alternate flights and put me up in a hotel and fed me. (I know they're obliged to do some of that under law, but they were genuinely helpful and pleasant to deal with - I felt like they cared about me as a customer).
I won't go into the details about the rest of the trip..
In any case I had booked for my trip to WebFest in September a few weeks ago as well, as I prefer to get myself organised as far in advance as possible. I'd booked the exact same route and combination of flights, so based on my experience on the 13th of July I knew that I would have to change my flights as I knew I would have identical issues.
This is where things fell apart.
As I'd booked the flights via Expedia Air France politely told me that I would have to raise the issue with them. So I contacted Expedia who weren't overly helpful until I insisted that they deal with the issue. Queue me spending about an hour on the phone to them and having to listen to their hold music a lot .. After being passed through several levels of their customer service team Expedia told me that Air France were refusing to change the flights without charging me both a fee for the change as well as the difference between the flights. Why? Because as far as Air France's policies are concerned the connection in Paris was "legal". (Seemingly Air France consider any connection of 45 minutes or more to be feasible in CDG)
So I paid the fee to Expedia and now have the flights booked in a manner that I will actually be able to get to my destination ..
However I was not happy with how Air France handled the situation. While I could understand if I had been asking to make a change based on some personal preference or whim, as far as I'm concerned being able to get to my destination is pretty fundamental. Air France shouldn't be allowing people to book connections unless they're possible.
So again I ended up on the phone with Air France last week. Unfortunately the person I was speaking to couldn't assist me, but they assured me that they'd get their supervisor to call me back. That never happened, so I rang again this afternoon. While the lady I spoke to was very polite and helpful she couldn't help me and I've now been asked to submit a formal complaint to their customer service team.
So tomorrow, or at some point this week, I'll submit my complaint to Air France, but I doubt they'll do much to help me this time.
Will I keep flying Air France? For the moment I probably will, but I know I won't be booking via 3rd party services ever again.