May 5, 2009

Air France Customer Service: Not Good

It is very simple, I stopped liking Air France in 2002 and the sentiment has not changed yet. And this is mainly because their customer service sucks, big time (will explain more below). On the other hand, I have had positive experiences with United, American Airlines, Continental - among US Airlines and extremely positive experiences with All Nippon Airways (japan) and Singapore Airlines.

I have had neutral experiences with Delta, US Airways, Northwest and Frontier Airlines. Never had a chance to use Jetblue, Southwest, Midwest or other carriers yet.

This rant is all about why I still don't trust Air France and due to that underlying reason, most of the Skyteam group in general.

Some of you might have gotten here searching for "how to redeem ff miles on Skyteam", or "Delta-Northwest merger" or "Air France sucks" etc. In the past several months, I have not been bashing any organization outright, except perhaps AIG or the super spendthrift policies of the US Govt. However, Air France, after giving me some bad experiences and challenging customer service situations in 2002, is now gloriously back in the picture.

In 2008, I had tried using up my soon to expire 30,000 Flying Blue Miles to book a free ticket, only to be presented with extremely restrictive choices on departure airports as well as available dates. In fact, I had to go over to to get a preview of available award tickets, because the Flying blue website nor the agents were not very helpful in that regard. Anyhow I had somehow managed to book a ticket in May 2009 to fly to San Juan Puerto Rico [which the agents mistake as San Jose every one of the 3 times I/ or they had called about it). I wonder what their accuracy of booking is when it comes to sending people correctly to Puerto rico instead of the Silicon valley. I ramble.]

Flying Blue changed the tickets themselves because it seems CO changed flight numbers. Flying Blue had charged a humongous 78.30 on taxes and surcharges and would not explain the break up until I have had conducted multiple "interrogation" sessions on the phone [Fuel charge: ~32.30 Taxes: 35, Unexplained: $ 10].

Finally when I called to change the dates, there were conflicting details on the change fee: the website shows 45 euros. But the Ontario office mentions a USD 70 fee. Finally when I decided enough is enough and with the H1N1 flu advisory, decided to cancel my no essential travel, Flying Blue would not refund my $8.30 directly. They wanted to charge $70 first to some credit card and then after 4-5 business days (euphemism for you will be left hanging) their ticketing would refund my 78.30 it seems. The agent also kept referring to the entire amount as taxes, when it clearly is not. The fuel surcharge is clearly not a tax. Why try to shift the blame on the goverment, when it is Air France that is pocketing the fuel surcharge? Anyhow the agent was not willing to do simple math and issue me a $8.30 refund, insisting that they need a CC for placing a $70 debit.

So as of now I have just let things lie as they are, and sent an email to Flying Blue Customer Care in Florida on Monday:

Hello __________
I had called to cancel an award ticket issued by Flying Blue (locator: BLANKED OUT) for a flight on May XX leaving EWR going to San Juan PR and returning on May XX on Continental Airlines. The taxes & surcharges added up to USD 78.30 when I purchased the ticket. Now I want to cancel the ticket due to (insert any reason here).

When I called the representative in the North American office (located in Ontario Canada), the cancellation fee was explained to me as USD 70. I agree with that amount although it was not explicitly stated in my initial ticket agreement (emailed to me as a pdf).

Even considering that I am owed $8.30 by Flying Blue. However, the agent I spoke to insisted on requesting a new credit card to apply a $70 fee and then have a refund of $78.30 applied to my old card. I am calling to simply request a refund of $8.30 charged back to my original card.

This is a very simple request and does not require any new debits of $70. I fail to see why a new fee needs to be added just because of the lack of interconnection in Air France's reservation & ticketing departments. Please cancel my award ticket, and reissue a refund of $8.30 to my CC account and I will consider this matter closed.
Thank you,
____________________ (customer)

As of Wednesday I have not even received an acknowledgement, let alone a resolution of the issue. I am thinking that AF will probably make away with the taxes without giving any to the government and yet at the same time not even bother to return me my rightful $8.30.

The update: Flying Blue Customer Service replied, but basically neither are they being frank about saying that their transaction system sucks, nor are they willing to modify their system to pay the difference. It is a copy paste from their std policy. Now you tell me, why would n't most customers get annoyed with policies like these?

Thank you for contacting Flying Blue.

We have received your enquiry concerning changes to an Award ticket.

Changes to your ticket may be made to the dates and the route within the validity period of the Award and in the same Award Zone. Any change requests must be received by Flying Blue before the flight has been taken. The modification fee is 70.00CAD/USD per reissue. (They are not able to make up if it CAD or USD, why not the 45 Euros as listed on AF website??) Once a portion of the ticket has been flown, you may only change the date of travel. No routing changes are permitted on partial used tickets.

The cancellation fee and reimbursement of taxes are two separate transactions therefore we are not able to waive the collection of the fee to reimburse the difference.

Please contact Flying Blue center at 1 800 375 8723 to finalize the cancelation process of your reservation BLANKED OUT.

Please consult the web sites or for complete information and conditions regarding our programme and your account.

Please feel free to contact us again in the future should you need further assistance.

Flying Blue Team


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