Thursday, July 27, 2017

Complaints against Air France and Ibis Styles Paris CDG

After venting my anger on Twitter:

here is the full story.

The flights

I was due to take the following flights:
AF1565 19/7/2017 19:45 BHX - CDG 22:00
AF188  19/7/2017 23:35 CDG - HKG 17:35 +1

The BHX-CDG flight was heavily delayed. No one ever explained why the flight was delayed, but when we arrived at the gate, there was no plane there. After a while, the plane finally arrived - to offload its passengers! So clearly the incoming flight was also delayed.

Eventually the plane took off about 75 minutes later than scheduled. There was a surprisingly large number (20+) of people on the flight who looked like Hongkongers, all connecting to AF188. Somehow many of them were rather inexperienced about this kind of situation. When some of them asked the crew, they were simply told to "run very quickly" to try to catch the connecting flight.

The rebooking and accommodation arrangements

The plane touched down at 23:05, but with CDG being CDG, it took until 23:20, perhaps even later, for us to get off the plane. Obviously the gate for AF188 closed by then, but I still ran to it hoping they would have waited for us. It seems to make rather more sense to wait about 20 minutes for such a large group of passengers on a long-haul flight like this, than to go through all the trouble of rebooking so many passengers and to fly a plane with 20 passengers short. Still, it may be beyond their control (the security staff have already gone off work) and if you are those sitting on AF188 you would think otherwise.

For me it was particularly disappointing as I was allocated a Premier Economy seat (I didn't book or pay for one, but someone got to sit there I suppose) only to see it gone.

So a whole queue of people waited at a transfer desk while 2 staff members dealt with this - extremely slowly. It took a long time until eventually more staff arrived. Quite frankly, they should be more prepared. They should have known, even before AF1565 took off, that all these people were going to need to be rebooked.

I was handled by a reasonably helpful staff member. She said I was the last one to be able to book onto the same flight 24 hours later (so it was worth the running...) Although that was not 100% true - the next day I recognized one girl on the same flight. But I was also aware of people being booked onto some Beijing-connecting flights. Anyway, I was reasonably happy with this arrangement and this particular staff member. She spent an awful long time on the phone (presumably to AF backoffice) about arranging my meals. The hotel booking included breakfast, and I was told the hotel would give me lunch as well - by her handwriting something onto the hotel voucher. I was also given a voucher for dinner at the airport the next day.

The whole process of arranging hotels and food and getting there was chaotic. I was told to go to somewhere at the departure level to collect some food. Then I was told to walk across to the opposite terminal to get transport to the hotel. Could you not do things more centrally? When I eventually found my way there, I was simply directed to go elsewhere. Conflicting information was given - no one seemed quite sure when the CDGVAL train or some shuttle would have stopped running late at night. Somehow, after bumping into a bunch of overly-passionate Brazilians heading to the same hotel, I managed to arrive there. (Actually not the same hotel, they were booked into Ibis and me Ibis Styles, but fortunately they were just next to each other. They have an annoyingly large number of similarly-named hotels...)

Rude hotel staff

But here is my real complaint.

When I checked in, the guy collected my voucher. Fearing now I lost "proof" to my lunch entitlement, I asked him about this and he said I have to speak to reception the next day. Fair enough. The next day, when I checked out and asked reception about this, the woman simply said "no". She was VERY RUDE and EXTREMELY UNHELPFUL. I asked to see the voucher they collected the day before, she again said "no", without offering any reason. After repeated questioning she finally uttered a little bit more, along the lines of "you should have gotten a voucher last night, if you do not have one we will not give you lunch". At no point did she show any interest to help, offer any alternatives, or try to find out whose fault it was. She did not even try to blame Air France. As soon as she finished the word "no" she went back to her own business, even though I was still standing there. Not that she was really busy with anything. There was no attempt to even pretend to be sorry about what happened, or show any sincerity. Her attitude was basically like "Your trick (to get a free meal) won't work, I have seen this many times".

Twitter to the rescue?

Then I went on Twitter to complain about them. Both AF and Ibis responded very quickly. Unfortunately, it simply ended in more disappointment. After a long exchange of messages with AF, where they basically offered to reimburse my lunch if I produce the receipts (which I cannot produce other than a 2.70 euro snack, since I didn't take a proper lunch), I was told to make a formal complaint. I'm not sure what's the point of your twitter team if all they do is to redirect people to your conventional complaint mechanisms. (Though it seems to be what most companies do these days...)

I'm not going to go through the whole process to get 2.70 euro refunded. You ought to offer something better than this. It is like when you are caught stealing things at a supermarket, and you just offer to repay the value of the stuff stolen. And I'm sure the lunch promised was worth more than 2.70. If I had known you are going to refund, I would have gone about my day entirely differently.


I wouldn't call myself a "frequent flyer" but I fly this BHX-HKG route very regularly (not always AF though) and I think you should treat your customers better. Now I only need a way to use my mileage points and be done with you. As for that hotel, is it your hotel's policy to treat customers with that sort of attitude? If not, I would demand to know what action is being taken about that staff member.