Why I Stopped Flying Air France


Regular readers of this space have probably figured that I like to travel and that I am prone to odd travel experiences.  Before you suggest that I was just being my usual unlucky self I would like to point out that I don’t hold Air India responsible for seating me next to a lady who kept playing with my music channels or volume controls. I don’t hold KLM responsible for the lady who shared her marriage woes with me despite my desperate attempt to read my book. I also don’t hold Qatar Airways responsible for the man who absolutely did not want to let me sit in the aisle seat that my boarding pass said I was supposed to have. I do, however hold Air France responsible for everything that happened from the moment I stepped onto their plane.

Boarding my plane I was under the impression that it would not matter if I did not speak French. I was foolish enough to think this because it really didn’t matter that I didn’t speak Mandarin when I took China Airlines. It also did not matter when I did not speak Turkish when I flew Turkish Airlines. However, on Air France, in order to give you a complete French experience, they only speak to you in French. It does not matter if you look at them blankly, they will continue to speak to you in French. Let me point out that saying “I don’t speak French” in French does not help. They will think you are joking. However, if you are lucky, French-speaking passengers on your flight will translate things for you until the flight attendant finally gives in and speaks to you in perfect English. Then the next time you speak to the same flight attendant, she will once again speak to you in French.

Fortunately I didn’t spend too much of my flight interacting with the crew. I figured the inflight entertainment system would keep me busy. While I was unthrilled about the small selection of movies and the fact that over half of them were only in French, I settled for one of the few movies available in English. I received a message saying that video on demand was unavailable because other people on the flight were using it. I had the choice between waiting or watching the movie from the middle. Waiting 20 minutes did not change anything. I did however notice that everybody else around me was seeing the same message. I thought I would watch a TV show instead. However, Air France had other ideas and I received a message saying TV shows were not available to me. Still not phased, I decided to listen to some music and went to the ‘my playlist’ option. Once again I received a pop-up message. I could not go to ‘my playlist’ unless I clicked on ‘CDs’ first but of course that option did not exist.

Giving up on any hope of entertainment, I decided to sleep. However, I gotten woken up by 4 different women in exactly the same way. All 4 of them had managed to slam their buttocks into either my arm or my shoulder. While the view I woke up to may have been a treat for the average straight male, it did nothing for me. On occasion I would get woken up by a 4-year-old who thought it was funny to awaken sleeping strangers despite strong words from her equally sleepy father. Now I know it might not be fair to blame Air France for the behaviour of other passengers on my flight but it is very hard not to feel disgruntled when you have just eaten a piece of egg-shaped cardboard. I usually don’t mind aeroplane food and did not want to purchase the 60 Euro meal that Air France emailed me about, every single day between me purchasing my ticket and actually flying. However, given France’s reputation for gourmet food I did not think it was fair to serve me my worst airline meal yet.

If you know me you are probably wondering when I am going to start complaining about the overweight person sitting next to me. This time I was seated next to a normal-sized lady who had 2 empty seats next to her. As soon as all passengers were on board she moved to the other end and we were both quite happy to put our feet up on an empty seat. However, Air France could not bear the thought of us being happy. They brought over an overweight passenger who had been complaining about his seat and said he was to get both the extra seats. Of course I began to wonder if I should gain a lot of weight in order to receive special treatment on flights. However, as long as I was being served cardboard I really was in no danger of getting bigger. Thanks Air France for making me dread travel.