Air France - Air France - I am writing to complain about the appalling level of service experienced as a passenger on Air France flight AF2898 from Paris Charles de Gaul (CDG) to St. Petersburg Pulkova (LED)

Posted on Wednesday, August 18th, 2004 at 12:00am CDT by dfc8e391

Company: Air France

Location: ST. PETERSBURG, RU

Category: Airlines

I am writing to complain about the appalling level of service experienced as a passenger on Air France flight AF2898 from Paris Charles de Gaul (CDG) to St. Petersburg Pulkova (LED). The events that took place are as follows:

My wife, four year old daughter and mother in law were traveling together from a holiday and arrived five hours in advance of this flight. We waited in the 2B terminal for appropriate check-in information to be displayed on the monitors. We waited for hours. I travel frequently and assured my family that if check-in started an announcement would be made on the PA system and the monitors would display the appropriate check in desk. After we noticed that other flights with similar departure times were already being checked-in we started to worry. We walked across the entire terminal carefully checking each monitor at each desk for our flight number or destination. NOTHING. So then we walked down the terminal ASKING EVERY check-in desk if they were servicing our flight. My wife and mother in law were in a panic and my daughter was tired of us having to search for our flight. Finally at check-in desk four the woman said she was servicing our flight. There was nothing on the monitor indicating that this was our check in desk, the monitor was blank blue.

The Air France employee snapped that we were late and that check in was closing. I informed her that the monitors were not displaying the flight and pointed out the monitor behind her. Her immediately response was that the monitors WERE displaying the information. I politely told her that this was simply not true and that she was wrong. At which time she said that due to my late arrival she could not seat us together and in fact would put us all in different seats around the airplane (including my 4 year old daughter). I told her that this was not really fair as the fact that we were late was due to Air France not posting the information on the monitors that we had been here waiting. She snapped back at me again insisting that the check-in information was on the monitors. I am a patient person. I live in Russia, a country that is not known for high levels of service, so I am used to this and I know how to ignore it and move on to get things done. BUT I HAVE NEVER BEEN TREATED SO BADLY.

The fact that she directly and wrongly accused me of lying or of being stupid (that the monitors were displaying the information) is unacceptable. The fact that she would use an unfriendly and condescending tone of voice telling me in front of my family is criminal. I told her that the monitors were not showing the information and that she should get someone that could insure that we were given appropriate seating for a family and that someone should apologize for her behavior. She became very rude and raised her voice at me several times. I informed her that her behavior was unacceptable and that I wanted to speak with someone else. She called her superior.

I assumed that this was one tired and incompetent employee. I own my own company and understand that not all are effectively trained and that everyone has a bad day. I was confident that the whole situation would be resolved with an apology and we could simply switch seats with other travelers once we boarded the plane. But unfortunately it became worse. The superior who responded looked at the situation by speaking with her assistant - refusing to allow me to speak. Finally I asked her name. She rudely told me she would not tell me her name and that I had no right to ask her that. She rudely asked me what I thought I was doing by asking her name when I was allowed to speak. I was appalled. Is it not common courtesy and general tradition to introduce oneself when speaking to someone? She had all my information before her on my tickets and yet I am expected to not be allowed to know who I am speaking to?

After she finished berating me for asking her name I told her the check-in desk number was not displayed on the monitors and she savagely yelled that it was, insinuating (in front of my family) that I was stupid. As I stated before, I am a business owner. I have over 80 employees and spend a lot of time on customer service and handling complaints. One of the first rules is to introduce oneself. The second is not to call your customer an idiot, at least not in front of him/her, and even if it is true. The third rule is to accept that perhaps a mistake was made and to try to rectify the problem immediately, not to try to assign blame or win the argument - this can always be done later when one is calmer and able to access the data. But this was not her tactic. She continued to sneer and tell me that the information was on the monitors and that I was late. I pointed out the blank screen behind her - she ignored my comment. I tried to explain that I had been watching the monitors for 3 hours. Not letting me speak, the supervisor continued to insist that this was my fault and that the information was posted on the monitors. She again refused to introduce herself.

I asked her if this was part of the customer service training that she had received at Air France and, sarcastically, she told me "Yes, we are instructed to be rude to our clients!" I insisted that I be allowed to tell her my side of the story. At which point she jerked the boarding passes that her assistant had been producing and told me that she would no longer allow me to proceed with check-in. I told her that she was being unreasonable, over-defensive and aggressive.

At this point she then threatened to take me to the police. As the stand-off continued I saw that my wife and mother in law, not understanding as they do not speak French, were near tears at witnessing the screaming that I was subjected to and the realization that we may not be going home any time soon. So I asked the supervisor and assistant to please continue with the check-in. They took full advantage of their position of power to continue to unkindly berate me as they finalized the check-in process. They saw that I was placed in a position that I could not protect my rights and enjoyed their chance to abuse.

This is not only unacceptable and criminal it is plain evil. I have related this story to several of my friends and colleague in my community. Some of hose who fly from Paris to St. Petersburg often have told me that this flight notoriously does not post the gate or check-in desk. One even said that he warns people flying this route to ask immediately each desk. One person even told me that he had missed this flight because he was waiting for the monitor to show the check-in desk and that it never showed it and when he went to the information desk to inquire shortly before take-off time he was told it was too late.

If this is some kind of cost savings technique or if the staff forgets to post the information at least they could write the flight number or "St. Petersburg" on a piece of paper and place it on the check-in desk where people can see it. In my case, on the 16th, I think the supervisor had simply forgotten - as she seemed to be so defensive as to be trying to hide something. But the issue is not the lack of the information but the rude, aggressive and ugly manner in which they handled my comments. The whole situation would have been avoided if they had just apologized and told me that they would make sure to try to make the information more visible in the future. I own shares in Air France and KLM, I was a client for business and pleasure fairly often. I no longer want to be associated with a company that can treat its clients in the ways that I witnessed that day. I would like a written apology and explanation. I also think that it is time to seriously examine your employee training and hiring practices and improve them. Until I get this and/or some other symbolic compensation I will not be flying your airline.

Sincerely,

Christian C


3 Comments

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83385a84, 2007-10-21, 12:42AM CDT

I am sorry for how Air France abused you too. I guess it is their normal business. I have had a negative experience with Air France too and wanted to share with you. I am an Assistant Professor in Tourism Marketing. I have flown Air France recently and had an experience that was against everything I teach my students in terms of customer service. I flew from Hong Kong to attend a conference in Spain; and I had connections in France in both arrival and return flights. On my return flight, from Madrid to Paris, my consumer rights were violated and I was insulted and humiliated grossly.

When I arrived in Paris (Charles de Gaul Airport), there was only an hour and 5 minutes to my Hong Kong flight. I had to transfer to another terminal for the Hong Kong flight. In a panic, I rushed to the transfer bus, where I and many other international passengers were kept waiting with no explanation. We reminded the gate keepers about our flight time so that they can hurry about bringing a bus but the answer we received was: you just wait. The bus arrived, passengers rushed to it but the bus waited another five minutes so that it was jam-packed before it took off. By the time we arrived at the security check point, there were only 30 minutes to my flight. There were two long lines in front of the security check point because only two lines were open with personnel attending the scanners. The security check was quite thorough and therefore slow, so some passengers including me were anxious about missing their flights. Again, we reminded the security personnel that we might miss our flights; the answer we received was: not my problem. After I came out of the security scan, one female personnel wanted to search me although there was no signal from the scanner. And I was trying to hurry by saying that my flight is about to leave; her response was: not my fault. By this time, there were 10 minutes to my flight, I rushed to the Gate, but it was the wrong gate, the gate number on my boarding pass was wrong, so I rushed to the correct one.

When I arrived to the right gate, there were five minutes to my flight. There were one male and four female (one of them Asian) gate agents. The Asian female agent approached to me, I showed her my passport and boarding pass, but she responded that it was finished with a sympathizing manner. I could see that the gateway to the plane was still up and connected; so, I replied: I see the plane is still there and the gateway is up, why dont you just let me go? The male agent approached to me right away and said: Madam it is not a train you know, we closed, you have to wait for the next flight, which is tonight at 11 oclock. That flight was 10 hours later. It did not make sense to me at all; I tried to explain to him that we had to wait for the bus and for the security check, but he did not listen, did not even look at me. The Asian agent was looking sorry; other female agents did not even hear the problem because they were counting boarding passes. Another passenger, an elderly Dutch gentleman, came in a hurry, the agent told him they were closed, by showing more empathy. Then, the male gate agent started talking with the other agents in French. I was really upset because they did not seem to care; so I said: The plane is still waiting, why cant we just go? But they did not even seem to hear me. Then, he turned to us and asked us to follow him so that he can re-issue a ticket for us. On the way there, I saw another passenger (Asian) rushing to the gate; I knew he was also on that flight because he was talking to people on the security check line about missing the flight to Hong Kong. But the female gate agents must have let him in because I have not seen him again for the rest of that day or on the next flight.

When we were being taken to a re-ticketing agent, I kept expressing my disappointment. The Dutch gentleman was so shocked that he had to take a pill to calm himself down. We passed through the security check again and went to one of the re-ticketing agents; the gate agent started talking to a dark-skinned re-ticketing agent in French. The re-ticketing agent looked at me and smiled. They chatted in French for about two minutes; let alone showing understanding, they seemed to be having fun with the situation. The re-ticketing agent asked for my passport, when they saw my passport their attitude became even worse; they looked at each other, talked in French again, with a confirmed manner and the gate agent left.

Then, the re-ticketing agent told me that my situation was different from the gentlemans situation because his flight was late but my flight was on time, and it was my fault that I missed the flight; he said it without checking anything on my flight. I could not believe what I was hearing. In fact, the Dutch gentleman was saying that he arrived an hour and half ago but still could not make it. Obviously, my being upset with the situation and expressing disappointment coupled with my national identity were good reasons for them to treat my case differently. I tried to tell him about the waiting, but he kept saying it is you madam, most people make it, so it is your fault, Air France is not responsible for your situation because Air France is never late. I was not arguing that Air France was late, but trying to tell him that we were kept waiting so they should show a little understanding but he did not even listen. He served the Dutch gentleman with a new ticket and a voucher for sandwich and drinks in an apologetic manner; and he gave me a new ticket with an attitude and turned his head without any further explanation.

During this process, other customers were around as well (most probably French), they heard all conversations and kept looking at me. The Dutch gentleman and I waited ten hours that day, for the next flight at night. The lack of common sense, empathy, customer care, friendliness, courtesy, namely, those qualities necessary for sensible customer service on the part of the personnel of Charles de Gaul Airport as well as the personnel of Air France cost us several hours of waiting and physical and emotional distress.

This is the most outrageous experience I have ever had. My rights were violated; I was discriminated and quite honestly abused, humiliated and insulted by the personnel of Air France. Therefore, I wrote a complain letter addressing to the CEO of Air France, Jean-Cyril Spinetta, and demanded apology from the responsible personnel as well as compensation. I faxed this letter to several offices of Air France, including its customer service office and headquarters; also e-mailed it to several related personnel. However, to this date, I did not receive any response. I am assuming that the CEO of a national flag carrier airline must have received the news from his personnel; otherwise, appropriate business, management and marketing would have been only joke terminologies for them.

I study consumer behavior. I know for a fact that consumers usually do not complain because they feel that it would not matter even if they did because they see no difference, no corrective action or apology from the wrongdoer; so the wrongdoer gets away with it most of the time. However, I also know for a fact that successful companies do take corrective action because they care about their consumer based brand equity. Turning such negative experiences into positive ones to contribute to their brand equity is in their hands. They can turn a dissatisfied customer into a loyal one with a positive word-of-mouth. ALL needed is CARE. But I guess Air France is not one of them; THEY JUST DONT CARE!

I have never been insulted this badly before, so I am going to pursue this matter as long as it takes. In fact, I am turning this experience into a good case to use in all my classes as well as conferences I attend. To that end, I have created blogs to share experiences with other consumers online.

Sincerely,

4bd82b7d, 2008-03-10, 03:14PM CDT

I have been told by an Air France supervisor that no one within that organisation who the public has access to, can take any initiative in responding to a customer's needs, that is not specifically spelled out for them. If they do, they can and will be fired, even if failure to do something represents a violation of both French law and the French constitution. My own experience was that they loaded me onto a transatlantic flight in a semi comatose state from a diabetic crisis, after refusing to call a doctor as I had pleaded for them to do. I did pass out on the plane, before take off, but fortunately woke up again somewhere over the Atlantic. The Air France agents laughed as I was wheeled to the plane in a wheelchair, too weak to protest. Air France's response? "You were asked if you needed a doctor, and you refused to see one."

On another blog, a former Air France employee from Boston's Logan Airport writes that working for Air France was great, because any employee could say anything they wanted to customers, and there would be no recourse for those people.

08e61084, 2008-12-29, 03:26PM CST

My Daughter and her friend(Yvonne Rigby and Kirsty Greenwood) are travelling to Thailand with air france. They arrived at CDG and were directed by air france staff to the wrong area. By the time they reached the right area they were not allowed to board the connecting flight to thailand. They attended the air france information desk and were advised that they would have to re-bbok a complete flight. That they would have to pay and would not be abe to travel until the next day. I would like to make a complaint as I do not think this is good enough. It is the first time her friend and she have travelled alone and the first time they have travelled with air france. Could somone please contact me as soon as possible regarding this. Her flight booking reference number is 5TEWL8.

Thank you Mrs D Viollet

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