Air France - CDG to Toronto - Trip from Hell!

Old Nov 16, 17, 5:55 am
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Air France - CDG to Toronto - Trip from Hell!

I am posting my experience to see whether this is what I should normally expect flying Air France to Canada. Flew from CDG on November 5th to Toronto. The complaint I filed with Air France (responded to by Delta - because it was a Delta 006 ticket?) has been copied below.

"This was my first experience flying with Air France (including the connecting flight from Budapest) and I must say that the Paris flight would have to rate as my worst flight experience that I have ever had. I have traveled many airlines over the last 45 years including in all continents (except Antarctica) so it takes a lot to be rated as the worst experience.

Here are the things that I observed and experienced:
- Loading the plane - No communications even though the boarding agents were clearly experiencing systems problems. On board the staff didn't help customers with seating and stood by while customers bickered over seating arrangements.
- Take off - The plane was hardly able to get off the ground. It must have used all of the runway to finally get up into the air. When it did get off the ground the plane seemed unable to climb. It took what seemed like forever to finally gain altitude. The plane was making all kinds of loud noises that are not typical for an Airbus 330. If I could have I would have got off the plane at that point as I was scared that the plane would crash. I have experienced tough flights before with weather or other issues but I think that this was the most frightening takeoff that I have ever experienced.
- Plane - This had to be one of the oldest, most antiquated planes left in service in a first world airline. I have pictures of the toilet that had cracks in the porcelain bowl. There were what appeared to be blood splatter on the ceiling above the people just in front of us (our travelling companions and I have pictures). My wife had to clean her table using hand cleaner as it had material on it that looked like old vomit. The entertainment system was a joke. It must be one of the first such systems ever used on airplanes. The content was also a joke. The movies were older than the system itself.
- Food and wine - The one area that I thought that Air France would excel given France's reputation in this area. Another epic fail. The advertised wine in the meal handout was not provided and a very low end product was substituted. The meal was worse than what you would expect on an American airline (I thought that they were the worst but....).
- Stewards - The plane had more than enough stewards on board but I was struck by how very little work some of them actually did. If it wasn't for two or three stewards, I am sure that nothing would have been done. When we were landing one steward berated a passenger for not bringing his seat forward. He pointed out that it was broken. She looked confused and walked back and forth trying to figure out what to do. Finally she called another steward in and he proceeded to bang on the seat thinking that that would fix it. What a joke!
- Plane offloading - We were told that immigration wouldn't let the plane offload as there were too many people going through customs. And then we were told to have our passport and papers waiting as customs agents were waiting for us at the ramp. This was a outright lie. Unless there is a security issue, this does not happen. The truth was that the plane was late by about 25 minutes and they had lost their place in the cue but they wanted to blame someone else.
- Baggage unloading - The baggage unloading systems on the plane wouldn't work (according to the announcement) and it took about an hour to get the bags. We were able to make our next flight only because it was delayed but there wasn't enough time to get our bags on that flight. We only got our bags the next day.
My feeling is that you are treating Canada as a sucker who will put up with your old crappy planes. We currently are not your priority. We are going to South Africa in May and I had considered using Air France but I will not based on this experience. That is 6 lost sales for you.
We flew over to Europe on KLM on another old but well maintained 330. While it was old, the KLM service and food were miles above the Air France service. You should learn something from your partner airline."

Like I said Delta responded to the complaint and issued four $50 gift certificates. While a monetary response was not my first consideration with the complaint, I find the $50 response way out of line with what you would expect with such a serious complaint. And why did Delta respond rather than Air France?

Okay FT members is this typical Air France/Delta service that I should expect or is this a one off experience.
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Old Nov 16, 17, 6:10 am
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Delta handle all AF/KL matters in North America, which is why they responded to you, the AF A330 are indeed old (on the bright side, CPT/JNB are served by 777/A380), did you not even find one thing that was to your liking? Honestly having flown AF long-haul extensively the past 3-4 years I find it a bit hard to believe it was that bad

Last edited by Ditto; Nov 16, 17 at 6:20 am
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Old Nov 16, 17, 6:15 am
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Delta represents AF and KL in the North American market, and therefore that is presumably why the local customer complaints department answered your query.

I think you are undermining the credibility of your complaint by using statements like "The plane was hardly able to get off the ground" and "the plane seemed unable to climb".

You can find numerous reports of dirty planes, poor food and so-so service on any airline. If you think the A330 is an old plane (the average age of AF's A330 fleet is only 15 years), you should try BA's creaking fleet of 747s (average age: 21 years - and being refurbished to fly for another 7 years) and KLM's 747s (average age: 22 years).

And you mistakenly assume or imply that the A330 is the only aircraft AF flies to Canada. Today's AF344 to YUL is a B777-300ER and yesterday's AF374 to YVR was on a B777-200

Last edited by irishguy28; Nov 16, 17 at 6:21 am
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Old Nov 16, 17, 6:16 am
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If you believe that the aircraft was not airworthy because it could not properly climb to altitude as per ATC direction, that is a matter which you ought to bring to French aviation authorities' attention immediately. But, to be frank, given the safety of modern commercial aviation which conducts triple checks and has zero tolerance for safety defects, I strongly suspect that the aircraft was airworthy and that the long rollout and climb were planned and executed to deal with weight & balance as well as local air traffic and wind conditions. It is much more likely that the aircraft did not experience "trouble" but was directed to maintain a low altitude to avoid air traffic above.

Better to check the facts before making allegations.

The $50 represents a typical DL response to pretty much any consumer complaint.

Air carriers, just like other customer-facing businesses, identify customers who cannot be pleased. If you have issues with everything from the Captain's technical competence to delays at Customs, DL ---- which handles North American customer service for AF --- may well have drawn that conclusion here and would prefer that you may find a better experience elsewhere.
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Old Nov 16, 17, 6:53 am
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Originally Posted by belky15 View Post
... I have pictures of the toilet that had cracks in the ** porcelain bowl ** ...
My guess is that this did not actually happen on a plane.
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Old Nov 16, 17, 6:56 am
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Originally Posted by irishguy28 View Post

I think you are undermining the credibility of your complaint by using statements like "The plane was hardly able to get off the ground" and "the plane seemed unable to climb"
"Undermining the credibility" is not exactly what I had in mind when I first read the post but yeah, you're absolutely right.

I'm actually surprised they've issued a $50 voucher, although I'm sure folks at customer service centre had a good laugh that day so maybe it was way of saying "thank you for making our day!".
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Old Nov 16, 17, 7:28 am
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I am quite surprised that they eventually gave you four $50 certificates (they are usually USD, that is around C$250).

If you file a similar complaint to AC, I am afraid you will wait for 6 weeks for a reply then even won't receive a 5% before-tax discount code....
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Old Nov 16, 17, 12:57 pm
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Thanks for your feedback. I am surprised that that was only a 15 year old plane. It is in rough shape and was not well cleaned or maintained.

As it goes for the takeoff, the plane clearly labored to get off the ground. The long take off can be planned but combined with a prolonged period at low altitude is far from typical. Air traffic doesn't want a commercial plane staying in the small plane zone for an extended period. We were well on our way to the channel before it really started moving into the normal expected altitude. I will leave it to the air traffic controllers and AF to determine whether this is normal for them. For me, I don't want to experience it again.

I use FT to get information about airlines and I was interested to see whether this was typical service for AF (I won't get into a debate with anyone about what I did or did not experience). It is good to see that AF has loyal followers which may mean that my experience was an anomaly.
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Old Nov 16, 17, 2:25 pm
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The disembarkation and roving team (DART) routinely examines Air France amongst a number of other airlines in Toronto right at the jetway. It is to curtail the destruction of passports and force airline liability when asylum seekers are found on board.
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Old Nov 16, 17, 2:56 pm
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I'll exchange your experience for my regular SDQ-CDG flight any day
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Old Nov 16, 17, 3:48 pm
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Originally Posted by Phrantic View Post
The disembarkation and roving team (DART) routinely examines Air France amongst a number of other airlines in Toronto right at the jetway. It is to curtail the destruction of passports and force airline liability when asylum seekers are found on board.
same in YUL. Very frequent.
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Old Nov 16, 17, 7:18 pm
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Originally Posted by belky15 View Post
The plane was making all kinds of loud noises that are not typical for an Airbus 330.
What kind of noises? And what is a typical noise at take-off for an Airbus A330-200 powered by two GE CF6-80E?

Originally Posted by belky15 View Post
If I could have I would have got off the plane at that point as I was scared that the plane would crash.
I suggest you have a look at this stress-free flying workshop. Beware though as it is organized by the very same airline you flew with.
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Old Nov 16, 17, 11:31 pm
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Are you sure it was not an A340?
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Old Nov 17, 17, 1:18 am
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This post from an aviation expert made me laugh.
AF356 was operated by an A340 not an A330.
it is true that the experience with a four-reactor A340 is different from that of an A330 or other two-reactor planes.
Take off with the small four jets takes a bit longer.

it is true that these birds are old and have not been retrofitted as they awaited removal and then JOON retrofits.
Many other comments are amusing, like expecting Y pax to be les personally to their assigned seats by FAs.
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Old Nov 17, 17, 1:43 am
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Originally Posted by LY777 View Post
Are you sure it was not an A340?
That's what I thought too. A340s take forever to climb. Good stuff, better for people at the windows.
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