Five reasons I hate Air France

Before I can talk about the great parts of the trip, like spending the night with Brian’s family in Slovakia, watching the Christmas tree lighting in Cesky Krumlov, or finding the best beer ever in Prague, I have to get my whining over with about our flight back.

So this past summer I spend hours researching airfare, trying to pinpoint the flights and planes that would give us the best combination of seats and connections. We finally chose a routing that put us on Air France coming home — mainly because of the 2-4-2 configuration that would allow us to sit together in a two-seat row, and the in-seat TVs that could help us forget for an hour and a half at a time about the hell that is flying coach for nine hours.

Here are five reasons I’ll try never to fly Air France again.

I thought EasyJet had horrible cattlecar boarding, but Air France has no rhyme or reason. Hundreds of passengers clump up around the boarding gate as if they won’t be allowed on the plane if they’re not part of the jostling, irritated crowd pushing as close to the gate as possible. We were to beging boarding at 1:05 for our 1:50 flight. With little explanation, we finally started boarding at 1:45, making the chances of catching our connection in Detroit completely zero. I nearly cried when I quickly checked the schedule on my phone and saw we were on the last flight out of Detroit that night. And I had nine hours ahead of me to dread the hassle of trying to get home and possibility of not even getting back that night.

I had carefully selected our seats online. Row 20 — as close to the front as we could be, to help get off the plane quicker to make our short connection in Detroit — and in a two-seat row. I never even thought to look at the seat numbers on the boarding pass Saturday morning when they printed from the kiosk. Why would it occur to me they would change our seats? We checked in 2 1/2 hours before the first leg. But as we finally boarded the big jet in Paris I realized with the greatest dismay they had shoved us into the middle of a four-seat row back in the 30s. We were wedged between two people that were firmly ensconced, set up with bags and magazines and, while nice, had no sense of the personal zones one should maintain in horribly cramped airplane seats. Again I wanted to cry, and I did say some bad words.

We had ordered vegetarian meals, and naturally Air France lumped that in with vegan meals, so we got a hot steaming dish of red-pepper scented merde. I hate and despise anything that’s so much as been touched by a pepper, so I couldn’t eat it. I saw a lovely wedge of Camembert on another tray nearby so I asked the flight attendant if I might have one. She looked at me as if I had two heads. “non!” was the curt reply. “There is no more!” I’m embarrassed to say I did cry at this point. I was exhausted from the travel-intensive 10 days, we were stuck in the middle for nine hours, weren’t likely going to get home to our dogs and our own bed that night, and now I wouldn’t have anything to eat all the long, long day. Bless the soul of the woman seated next to me. She spoke French, but understood my sniveling to Brian. She snagged the attendant and asked en Francais for more Camembert. Certainement! The attendant immediately brought her a wedge. I stopped sniffling long enough to drink a glass of champagne and a glass of red wine with my wine and cheese.

My resignment to the situation didn’t last long though. Trying to maneuver my plastic knife and fork to saw through the vegan(!) “chocolate cake” in my slice of space, I knocked over my coffee. Of course it soaked my new sweater, and my lap. Brian rang the attendant and asked for a towel. She looked at the tear-stained, weary American doused in cognac-laced coffee and replied “get some in zee bathroom.” I initiated the dance that is getting out of a four-person row, and locked myself in the bathroom to dab at the mess with their tissue-like imitation of paper towels. May as well kill two birds with one stone, so I took care of the necessary business at the same time — and ahh! The door opened and there stood a man, looking equally as mortified as I was. I had thought the door was locked, as the light came one when I slid the lever, but nope. You have to slide it past the point that turns on the light.

I settled in to distract myself with movies, trying to ignore the nice lady next to me whose arms were clear over the armrest into my zone. I felt guilty watching a movie though, as Brian’s tv was broken. He rang at least half a dozen times and got everything from no response to a shrug. He finally, about three or four hours in, got up and tracked down an attendant who got the TV to work for him.

And just as a bonus to these five reasons I hate Air France, our luggage has — 2 1/2 days later — STILL not left Prague.

Sometimes I wish we still lived in the days of ocean travel.

8 responses to “Five reasons I hate Air France

  1. And I hope you are home safely enscounced in your home… Some words of wisdom…always bring snacks with you!!! I don’t travel without them.

  2. Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and say that was a pretty bad flight. Granted I haven’t flown to Europe or Asia in a decade…but back then I preferred British Airways.

  3. i just typed ‘i hate air france’ into google in a moment of frustration and this came up! i can sympathise with your experiences totally. i am still waiting for my luggage to get home after arriving home myself on the 20th december! argh! i also had the vegetarian food – not so good. the highlight of the appalling service for me was when i went to the toilet just before some turbulence – an air france attendant came and banged on the door and shouted ‘get out!’ repeatedly until i emerged – most offputting!

  4. Black woman travelling alone on air France.. BEWARE.. Air France will use you as a travelling MAMMY SERVICE for any unattended children on a flight.

    Yes I also have my qualms with air France. It was my first time flying with them, and I was taking a very very long connecting flight from Paris to Tokyo.

    I paid for my ticket like everyone else, picked my seat only to have to have some French a**hole change it when i got to boarding. He said the screen wasn’t working therefore he had assigned me to a “better” seat.

    I was thinking, wooow upgrade? They way he made it sound it was as if he had done me a great favor.
    When I got to my new assigned seat , I only found it was sandwiched between two unaccompanied French girls, both no older than 7.

    I immediately went back to check my original seat to find a man sitting there and the screen working perfectly fine.

    When I contested this to the staff, they told me they couldn’t move me even though there were spare seats all over the economy cabin.

    The absolute audacity, they acted as if i shouldve been greatful and they couldnt see the problem. “Theyre lovely children” They kept saying.

    I was even willing to downgrade and they wouldn’t let me.
    he whole flight I had these damn French kids screeching and kicking me and no I didnt find it cute!

    I tried to sleep through it but Flight attendants kept waking me up to ask ME if they had eaten?, if their seat belts were on?, if they wanted something to drink?, are they enjoying the movie? Could you take them to the bathroom? And every time I refused they gave me a look of complete confusion.

    Firstly, yes I know I am a woman in my early 20s but that doesn’t mean I enjoy the company of children, hence I have none of my own. In fact I absolutely detest them.

    And Air France using me as a babysitter was completely unfair. I wasn’t getting a free flight. I paid for a level of comfort and that comfort doesn’t include musical chairs and other nonsense!!!

    Those kids smelled terrible and the whole experience ruined my flight. F**K YOU AIR FRANCE you racist, sexist sack of S**T!!!

  5. As you are getting ready for another summer vacation anywhere outside of the US or just Europe, AVOID taking Air France at any cost. I’ll let you decide if the heading of this review should have been “I HATE Air France”. If you do book a flight with Air France after reading this review and have an unpleasant experience with them, then please do not complain afterwards because you are forewarned. Here is our story:
    It was late June of 2010. We took a flight with Air France, from Washington DC to Istanbul, via Paris. The first leg of the trip was uneventful, thank God, because what happened afterwards was bad enough to cover many many Air France mishaps that you might experience on any given flight. After transferring to another airplane, we continued our trip from Paris to Istanbul, which is supposed to be 3 hours. A half hour or so before we were supposed land in Istanbul, the pilot announced that we were returning back to Paris because the airplane’s landing radar was not operating properly and landing conditions in Istanbul were windy. In other words they were concerned about the safety. We did not like the news, but, hey, anyone can experience such a malfunction on any airplane or airlines. While we were returning back to Paris , we found out from a flight attendant that the airplane had come from Frankfurt first and this condition was known. So if Air France knew the problem why did they assign the plane to fly? We said let’s not get upset and ruin our trip. Two and a half hours later, and a full thirteen plus hours after we left home from Washington DC, we landed back in Paris.
    The airplane parked on the tarmac. We walked down the stairs to board a bus. Oh by the way, I forgot to mentioned that my wife’s knees are in such a bad condition with arthritis that we had to install a chair lift for her on the stairs of our house so that she can be mobile without pain. But enduring pain is exactly what she did – she walked down the airplane stairs. The next problem arrived when the bus let us off in front of a three story set of stairs that we had to walk up to reach the terminal. Everyone walked up, and we waited. Waited to ask someone to take us to an elevator so that my wife would not be forced to negotiate the stairs with pain. Oh by the way, I did not mention that I am a heart patient. It is not good for me to walk up three flights of stairs either.
    Well, an Air France representative came. We told him about my wife’s knees, he said that there is no elevator. I questioned his statement, stating that I cannot believe that in Charles De Gaul Airport there is no elevator anywhere to take us up. All they had to do is just walk us to the nearest elevator. The man insisted that there was no elevator and we had to walk up just like all other passengers did. My wife’s arthritic knees? My heart condition? I asked him what happens if I have a heart attack while I am trying to go up three flights. His response was, if that happens we’ll take you to the hospital. At that point I told him that he should call the police because we are not going anywhere until they take us to an elevator. Yes, a few police came around trying to understand the problem. The man was insisting that there was no elevator that we can walk to, nor could they can take us to one, and if all of the other passengers can go up, we too can walk up to the terminal. I told him if he kept up that attitude we might both be on the front page the next day. At that point, my wife said that she would walk up no matter what. She and I walked up three stories of stairs in twenty minutes, while taking breaks along with the entourage of Air France representatives and a few policemen. Ironically, after we came home there was the official Disabilities month and passage of disabilities laws to provide a variety of capabilities to people like us and those in worse condition. Thank you America for trying to accommodate all disabled people and shame on you Air France for insisting and expecting us to be in the condition to walk up three floors to your terminal and refusing to take us to an elevator. I would like to ask you, should I hate Air France and should I ever consider flying Air France again?

  6. I flew Air France last summer when I was going to Paris and Norway, the seats were cramped as you said also the plane smelled the whole time till morning. I really did not like the food they served. It was disgusting. I felt very bad for the older man that had the window seat as he was much cramped, but he was very nice. Luckily I was also going to Ireland on my trip around Europe so I flew from Dublin Airport through American Airlines which was much better then Air France.

  7. Air France customer service is non existent in Singapore. My first experience of this airline will now be the last. So many hours wasted talking to deadhead CS reps in call centres to try to rectify a booking error one of their own CS originally made! They never apologise, won’t check the recordings of my booking call, and instead look to profit at every opportunity. Three times they haven’t even returned calls they promised to. They just seem so used to errors and complaints that it doesn’t matter to them anymore. We haven’t flown yet and I already can’t stand the company. 7 hours of my life wasted on hold over the last 2 days, for nothing.They have no office in thei country otherwise I feel like going down there to rip it up!

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