Jan 5th, pandemonium at CDG, AF chaos

Old Jan 6, 09, 6:43 am
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Jan 5th, pandemonium at CDG, AF chaos

I was scheduled to fly LYS-AMS yesterday and while on the train to Lyon I got a text saying that my flight had been canceled. So I called AF and they said there were some weather issues at AMS. They said they would look into options for me and call me back. Then AF called me to say my flight had been canceled (they were great at notification), and they said they could book me on a train from Part Dieu to CDG and a CDG-AMS flight that would get me in about 5 hours late.

So I went to the TGV Air desk at Part Dieu and they had a first class TGV ticket for me. All seemed OK. Then I got a call from KLM (it sounded like a call center in Delhi) saying my flight to AMS was canceled. They said that as a Platinum member, a hotel reservation would be make for me at CDG and they would put me on the first flight out in the morning.

Then when I got to CDG I could see that all was not going to be OK. It was pure chaos. I made my way to the 2F AF service desk and there was hundreds of people in line. There wasn't any AF personnel controlling the Business class line so it was full of economy passengers who didn't care. An announcement was made that all check in desks were closed until further notice. Pure chaos.

I decided to use my frequent flyer knowledge to use and with my LYS-AMS BP I persuaded security to let me into 2F. Then I went down to the lounge where there were also some people waiting for resolution of their cancellations, but fortunately it was only about 10 in line. But still those few were not happy. AF told one guy that there was no chance of his baggage making the flight the next morning, nor could he give up on the flight and get his bags that night. When my turn came, they said no hotel rooms. I was expecting this and while in line I used my iPhone to scan the TGV schedule for a train to Brussels. Then I sat down with my laptop to book a ticket on the train. But the SNCF website was down too!! So I called the Grand Voyageur line and after a while (they were clearly busy too) they got me a reservation on the train. I made a booking for the Sheraton Brussels and I was set. Almost. I still had to get the ticket out of the ticket machine and there were long lines there too. As I was getting close to the machine, some people gangstered their way to the front of the line, saying their train was leaving. My train was leaving in 10 minutes so I used my gangster skills to push my way right past them and got my ticket out. And made the train with less than a minute to spare.

Then I woke up this morning after a comfortable night at the Sheraton (much better than sleeping on the floor at CDG) and took an on-time train to AMS. So what are the odds that AF will actually reimburse me for the train tickets and hotel costs? Or will they refund my restricted economy ticket? I'm guessing I'll get nothing at all from AF for all the trouble. The weather was not AF's fault, but how could they be so unprepared at CDG? Like I said, they were great at notification. I got 3 texts, 3 emails and 3 phone calls, all telling me my flight was canceled. But after promising me a hotel at CDG, I found pure chaos at the airport. It was only my skill at negotiating AF and CDG that allowed me to find out some news within an hour. The rest of the people stranded had to wait hours to find out they didn't have a flight or hotel. I'll bet the people at the end of the line never made it to the desk before it closed.
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Old Jan 6, 09, 6:57 am
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You're a true warrior/gangster! I'm impressed. That said, I don't know how impressed AF will be, but you need to write a clear, concise letter (put it in chronological order, use bullet points) about the day's event. Include photocopies of all of your expenses and give them a clear grand total of how much you spent out of pocket to get to your final destination.

Be polite, point out that they did a good job on notification but that the ground operations at CDG were totally unsatisfactory. Ask them, as a Plat, for some kind of "geste commercial" for your troubles ... you never know. The least you may get are some miles deposited into your FB account.

I can't remember when it was, a few years back, over the holidays as well ... there was some snow and you would have thought that ADP and AF were being asked to run operations from the North Pole ... it was a mess (I got to stay in Rio for a few more days, so I wasn't too upset). Looks like they haven't learned anything.
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Old Jan 6, 09, 9:12 am
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OT: Japanese efficiency!

Just by curiosity, I have just looked at AF 278 / AF 277 schedule for yesterday / today (AF277 being my favourite AF flight).

AF278 left CDG at 00:43, instead of 23:25 because of the bad weather conditions in Paris, thus arriving at NRT at 21:10 today.
What baffles me is that AF277 left NRT at… 22:40!
It only took 90min for AF ground staff at NRT to make a full 77W (F-GSQH) ready to fly back to CDG (deboarding 325 PAX, clean the aircraft, freight, luggage and catering loading, boarding 325 PAX)… in only 90min block time!
Wow, THAT is efficiency!
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Old Jan 6, 09, 9:36 am
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There is a curfew at NRT starting at 2200 I believe, so they must allow a certain amount of leeway for delayed flights. It may be that they had to be airborne by a certain time.
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Old Jan 6, 09, 1:03 pm
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Flying to ATH was fortunately uneventful today, Jan. 6th. Flight crew was outstanding . The RER line B train, on the other hand, was crawling until it passed Villepinte Parc des Expositions. Electricity restrictions ?
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Old Jan 6, 09, 3:29 pm
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Originally Posted by Malonda View Post
Just by curiosity, I have just looked at AF 278 / AF 277 schedule for yesterday / today (AF277 being my favourite AF flight).

AF278 left CDG at 00:43, instead of 23:25 because of the bad weather conditions in Paris, thus arriving at NRT at 21:10 today.
What baffles me is that AF277 left NRT at… 22:40!
It only took 90min for AF ground staff at NRT to make a full 77W (F-GSQH) ready to fly back to CDG (deboarding 325 PAX, clean the aircraft, freight, luggage and catering loading, boarding 325 PAX)… in only 90min block time!
Wow, THAT is efficiency!

Japanese efficiency? I've seen an Air France 777 turned-around in 65 minutes at Mexico City !!!
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Old Jan 6, 09, 11:36 pm
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Just a question to those that were traveling on Jan 5 at CDG: was it really a bad winter storm that would have crippled any airport? Or was it a laughable amount of snow flakes at some earlier point in the day, but CDG operations weren't up to managing the situation the whole day? I

('ve seen the latter several times, where things got out of control simply because there aren't enough snow ploughs at CDG, or not enough drivers, or the drivers call in sick, or go on strike, and there is only one de-icing unit per departure runway... things like that. I have several friends that are airline pilots who have told me how ridiculously bad CDG is at managing "winter" situations, although they do happen several times every year. The kind of situations that would mean that airports like Stockholm, Geneva or Munich would be closed most of the time between November and April)

The reason I am asking is that there certainly will be more days with some winter influence, so knowing ahead how much/how little it will take to create chaos will help me in my travel planning.
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Old Jan 7, 09, 6:43 am
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FYI

From Le Quotidien du Tourisme:

Roissy : Air France doit-elle indemniser les passagers victimes des vols annulés ?

du 06 Janvier 2009

Elle devrait pouvoir démontrer les "circonstances extraordinaires", nécessaires selon le droit européen pour s'exonérer de cette obligation.

Effectivement, la notion de "circonstance extraordinaire", selon Emmanuelle Llop, avocate spécialisée, est plus souple que celle de "force majeure". Elle inclut "l'instabilité politique", les "conditions météo", les "défaillances imprévues" ou encore les "grèves". Bémol : un arrêt récent a obligé Alitalia à indemniser des passagers dont le vol avait été annulé à la suite d'un incident technique. "Résoudre un problème technique provenant d’un défaut d’entretien d’un appareil doit donc être considéré comme inhérent à l’exercice normal de l’activité du transporteur aérien. En conséquence, des problèmes techniques révélés lors de l’entretien des aéronefs ou en raison du défaut d’un tel entretien ne constituent pas, en tant que tels, des circonstances extraordinaires".

"Quoiqu'il en soit, le règlement européen oblige les compagnies en cas d'annulation à une obligation "d'assistance des passagers". Ils sont en droit de se faire offrir gratuitement des rafraîchissements et des possibilités de se restaurer ; un hébergement à l’hôtel lorsqu’un séjour d’attente d’une ou plusieurs nuits est nécessaire ; le transfert depuis l’aéroport jusqu’au lieu d’hébergement ; la possibilité d’effectuer deux appels téléphoniques ou d’envoyer deux télex, deux télécopies ou deux messages électroniques.
A reader leaving a comment said he received an apology from AF by e-mail and 4000 miles deposited to his FB account (he was flying Toulon-Paris Monday evening and was 3 hours late ...).
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Old Jan 7, 09, 6:49 am
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There is now this on the AF website...



POINT du 6 Janvier - MAUVAISES CONDITIONS METEOROLOGIQUES

Les fortes perturbations subies par nos opérations hier en raison des importantes restrictions de trafic aérien sur Paris-Charles De gaulle notamment, entraînent quelques répercussions ce jour 6 Janvier : les horaires d´un certain nombre de vols ont été recalés et quelques annulations de vols court et moyen-courriers sont à déplorer.

Air France fait son maximum pour réacheminer tous les passagers par les moyens propres Air France, par KLM ou d´autres compagnies partenaires.

Pour plus d´informations sur votre vol, merci de consulter la rubrique Réservations et promotions/Acutalité des vols.

Air France regrette vivement les désagréments que ses clients ont connu à cette oaccasion, malgré tous les efforts déployés pour en atténuer les conséquences.
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Old Jan 7, 09, 7:10 am
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Same situation

I was on my way to Dulles from Frankfurt the 5th and ended up at CDG as well. What started out as a one hour flight, turned into seven hours in the aircraft. Three of which were at CDG waiting for a gate to become available. By the time we got into the terminal, there were no blankets, no food and no hotels available, forcing me to spend the night in the chair of one of the ticket counters. After 19 hours and two bomb scares, I finally received a ticket to continue to Dulles. My luggage wasn't as lucky. It's still out there somewhere.
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Old Jan 7, 09, 7:12 am
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Originally Posted by creber View Post
Just a question to those that were traveling on Jan 5 at CDG: was it really a bad winter storm that would have crippled any airport? Or was it a laughable amount of snow flakes at some earlier point in the day, but CDG operations weren't up to managing the situation the whole day?
It was about 1"-2" of light snow and did not cause *us* any concern regarding our travel that day. It was an easy taxi ride from Paris, arriving at CDG at 1.30pm for AF1680, the check-in agent told us no shown delays.

After security, I should have known something wasn't right because we were denied entry into AF lounge as a Delta CRC member. Sometime later we heard flight delay/cancellation announcements. 5 hours later, after waiting and queuing, we were told that only those on connecting flights were getting rebooked. As we were originating from CDG to LHR we weren't enough of a concern to AF. The agent told us that if we left the airport, we'd not get rebooked and told not to try and get our luggage that it would get to us - eventually. We simply were given a 4 digit telephone number to call for rebooking. Apparently it was given to many other passengers but it did not get answered. Obviously, a fob off number.

AF did not communicate anything to passengers nor did they handle the situation. Agents literally disappeared. Chaos is exactly the appropriate word. Hearing that flights for the next day were also full, we understood that leaving ourselves at mercy of AF meant leaving Wed Jan 7 at the earliest and sleeping on the floor at CDG for 2 days. No hotels, no meals. Nothing was being offered to anyone despite what the news said. All hotels in and around Paris were full. In spite of AF's "advice", it was time for alternatives.

AF at some point decided to unload the luggage from every canceled flight on 2 belts - 32 & 33. So there was a sea of cases with people climbing in vain to search for their own luggage. No organization, no rhyme or reason. When belts were overloaded, people took it upon themselves to unload them onto the floor. The mood varied from incredulous to anger - including at least 2 very vocal people being taken away by police.

Picture of Luggage - CDG 05 Jan 2009

3 hours into our search, we finally found our bags - and had our plan. First priority was to get out of CDG and with no hotels to be found in Paris, we opted to head to Lille on the TGV. Staying at a nice hotel across the street from the train station in Lille, we grabbed the Eurostar first thing in the morning into London and the tube to LHR. There were a few others that appeared to have the same idea as us, but it was certainly far better than staying on the floor in CDG.

As a Delta SM, I've had numerous flight cancellations before and I could at least get some information. We got 0 text msgs/emails/phone calls from AF. They were hopelessly understaffed for the situation and not at all helpful. We had to pay over €300 to get out of CDG but at least we got home the next day and it was likely cheaper than had we waited for our rebooked AF flight. We doubt we will ever get back our out of pocket costs but at least would like the unused portion of our flight back + miles but are not holding our breath for a favorable response from AF.

Last edited by RBrownTN; Jan 7, 09 at 7:19 am
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Old Jan 7, 09, 7:18 am
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The transport minister has launched an investigation into the causes of the chaos created by a few snow flakes and mild frost (fully forecasted by the French national weather service a day ahead).
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Old Jan 7, 09, 9:12 am
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Any of the AF apologists want to come to their defence?
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Old Jan 7, 09, 10:01 am
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Originally Posted by Mofomat View Post
Any of the AF apologists want to come to their defence?
As far as I am concerned, there simply is no defense for being that unorganized.
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Old Jan 7, 09, 10:18 am
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Originally Posted by RBrownTN View Post
That is disgraceful.
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