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Old Oct 28, 2013, 3:50 PM
jayshah89 jayshah89 is offline
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 1
Default Air France racially targets Indian Passengers for a flight delayed by over 24hrs!

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer,
Air France-KLM

Dear Alexandre,

Can I call you Alexandre? I hope you donít mind if I call you by your first name, I understand only your close friends and family members would lovingly call you Alexandre. Iím sure by the time weíre through this entire incident; youíd feel like weíve known each other for years. As was the flight delay time, on one of your aircrafts I had the misfortune of flying.

You know Alexandre, I seldom read and the only thing I've ever lamented online is the proliferation of religious ideologies. I don't believe in throwing brickbats on any passing subject but I do believe in the fact that writing needs a sense of purpose, which I've rarely come across until now. So you should feel special Alexandre, very special.

The thing is Iíve started dreaming about Air France, Alexandre. I canít seem to get over. Itís like weíve been flirting for so long, I canít take it anymore. Everyday I wake up and I check my inbox to see if Iíve received an e-mail from one of your Customer Relations Executive, I frantically search my mailbox to see if thereís any post from Air France regarding the incident thatís probably going to have lifelong implications on the goodwill of your Company. I canít take it anymore Alexandre, I canít.

Please allow me to provide specific details in a timeline format, so that you can either pursue your professional prerogative and seek to rectify these difficulties ó or more likely (I suspect) youíll probably bury yourself in the buckskin leather chair you have and pass this nonchalant piece of information to your interns.

9th October 2013

5.45 pm (New York): I message my older sister good-bye and board Air France flight AF 17 from JFK Airport, New York. More often than not, my trips abroad are marred with unforeseen events so I was pleasantly surprised when I left New York to go back home, and that nothing untoward occurred over the course of 4 weeks. But then again, "impossible" isn't a French word Alexandre and I didn't realize I was still far from home, which means, I had spoken too soon.

See, youíre getting to know so much about me already. Although, a lot of this might come as a surprise to you, but life is full of surprises, no? Okay never mind.

8.15 am (Paris): Everything seemed normal and I tried to sleep my way to Paris with little luck. We landed in Paris around 7.00 am and proceeded to Terminal K Gate 51 to board my connecting Air France Flight AF 218 to Bombay, which was to depart at 10.50 am. I've had an eventful experience while passing through Paris the last time and I wasn't feeling any better this time around either.

10.15 am: The information screen finally comes to life and announces that Flight AF 218 scheduled to depart at 10.50 am for Bombay has been delayed and rescheduled for 12.20 pm. You know the funny part Alexandre? I donít see any of your ground staff who shouldíve shared this information with us. You guys have taken digitalization to a whole new level.

12.00 pm: Itís been 5 hours now since weíve been at the Airport. Once again Alexandre, there is no word from Air France, itís way past our Boarding time but I donít see any of those walking abortions, asking us to Board the Aircraft. Iím worried Alexandre, will I ever get home? I couldnít tell.

12.45 pm: As more and more passengers panic, voices grow louder; finally two of your immaculately dressed French men come to the floor. The words they utter, go through my chest like a glass splinter, only you couldíve helped stop the pain. They say that the flight to Bombay has been cancelled indefinitely. No clear reasons are given, just a plain, meaningless statement ďthe aircraft has technical issues!íí Do you feel the coldness Alexandre? Itís like your wife, sending you an SMS saying your marriage canít work. She doesnít say why, she doesnít even tell you if thereís any possibility of it working out. She just bails out on you Alexandre, harsh, isnít it? I know, I can feel you.

Iíve been away from my family for a month; do you know how eager I am to get home? You canít! But as you will realize later in this letter, my eagerness to get back home is nothing compared to, with good reason, the emergencies faced by some of the other passengers.

1.30 pm: The French men have now completely lost it! They forget your beautifully worded guide to solving customer issues and are completely clueless about whatís going on. They stick their ears to their talking devices and arrogantly refuse divulging any information to the stranded passengers. The only thing they promise us is that we wonít be flying out of Paris until next day. How comforting, feels just like your Buckskin leather chair, NOT!

Kindly note, weíre in Paris! Itís the hub of Air France. An alternate flight couldíve been arranged?!

1.45 pm: After some verbal altercations with the passengers, your staff finally decided itís time for us to have lunch. They handed out meal vouchers which could be redeemed at one of the two restaurants in the Terminal but directed us towards Exki in particular since it was closer to the Gate and we had to assemble at the Air France Office at the lower terminal for further ďinstructionsĒ.

2.15 pm: Passengers assemble at the office. After waiting for 45 minutes, weíre told that weíll be given accommodation and Meal Vouchers for the stay. Passengers already holding a Schengen Visa are directed towards the Hotel whereas the rest of us are asked to submit our passports to apply for a Transit Visa. As of now about 5-6 people have a Schengen Visa out of nearly 40 passengers in total.

Are you with me so far Alexandre? Donít lose me now.

This is where things turn for the worse. This is where it getís really serious! Godforsaken company.

3.30 pm: Passengers with emergencies try to get themselves placed on an alternate flight to India. Some are senior citizens, some are patients and some have personal issues to tend to.

27-year-old Mr Subhransu Mishra, who is consumed with emotions, tries to negotiate a seat on any other flight to India but is flatly refused. I later realize that his father passed away in a car accident two days ago and his family was waiting for him to perform the last rites for his father in Bhubaneshwar. If that wasnít enough, Bhubaneshwar was bracing itself for the worst Cyclone to ever hit the country, Phailin two days late. I canít imagine whatís going on in Subhransuís mind. Itís just really sad!

Suddenly none of my problems hold any value compared to Subhransuís, Iím taken aback with his helplessness and we try to persuade the Air France Officials to give him a seat on an alternate flight or airline. At this point, I realize the lack of courtesy, even on humanitarian grounds extended to him by the officials as they arrogantly refuse him a seat, saying many people have emergencies and they cannot afford to accommodate all of them. They immediately deny and say there are no flights going to India without making any calls or checking any monitors for alternate flights to India. Seems like this is the only information theyíre sure of even though they have no clue when our flight would be departing the next day.

We are later told by one of the informed passengers that a woman flying Business Class on our flight was accommodated on an Air India flight to India.

6.00 pm: The Staff finally arrives with our Passports after 3 hours. To my utter disbelief, only 6-7 people are given the Transit Visa whereas the rest of us are denied. There is no proof of rejection on the passport, nor does it carry any form, that holds any evidence of rejection too. Most of us have traveled to Europe before and considering we were flying originally from New York, we also had US Visas apart from a number of other visas from countries world over. On what grounds were our Visas rejected? Weíd never know.

Ironically the 6-7 passengers who received the Visa are only Senior Citizens as well as women with children. No one else and I mean NO ONE ELSE got the visa.

Weíve now been at the airport for nearly 12 hours and have just been informed that we canít even travel outside the airport to rest at one of the Hotels. Everyone is furious and we try to reason the refusal of our Transit Visa. It made no sense logically or practically for a stranded passenger to have been refused a Transit Visa. Although, it made a lot of logical sense for the airline to have not applied for our visa at all considering it would help save Visa Fees and money spent for our Accommodation. How can you refuse a Transit Visa to a stranded Passenger? On what ground? This question is directed both, towards the French Embassy as well as Air France, whoever finally decided to refuse the Visa.

By now youíd feel that this is the worst your airline couldíve done in terms of Customer Care but did I say Iím in Bombay yet, No! It getís even worse Alexandre. Iíd be very worried if I were in your place, you see itís not that complicated, itís rather quite simple. These things happen world over and Iím sure youíve faced them too someday. But think about it Alexandre, what would you do if you were Subhransu, canít imagine, can you? Heís a 28 year old boy who hasnít seen his father in months, the only reason heís going to India is because his father suddenly passed away and all he wants, rather all he can do, is see his father, one last time! But by the grace of your ground staff and officials, he probably wonít even get to do that! Do you feel his pain, Alexandre? I donít think so! I cannot curse your airline enough or the imbeciles running it. Whatís your raison díÍtre? Please tell us, so we can all hear it.

Anyway, I digress.

We ask them for directions to their lounge. At first, they seem perplexed and then comes another one of those cold, illogical and insensitive replies, weíre told the Air France Lounge is only for Business Class passengers and they canít allow us to stay there. We are asked to take an airport shuttle to the other terminal and fend for ourselves at the upper deck resting area.

Out of the 35 odd passengers, most of them are senior citizens and a lot of them can barely speak English. They are scared and eager to get back home. They cannot speak out for themselves. At 6.30pm we call for four wheel chairs for senior citizens who can hardly walk let alone go to the other terminal, which needs a train to reach. After waiting for over an hour and half, the ground staff arrives with one wheel chair saying they couldnít find more wheel chairs, so we point out the 20 odd wheel chairs lying right across the hall in a section which was closed and we hear something that baffles all of us, ďthose wheel chairs are from another company and we cannot use them!Ē I recorded this on my Camera.

The thing that lingers at the back of my mind more than anything else right now is the gut wrenching fact that everyone you know who had traveled to France earlier warned you about this, you knew you were being targeted because of your race but youíre in denial thinking youíre being irrational. You wonder at this point how could it all go, so wrong, but youíre left with insidious and plausible deniabilityís of the fact that youíre attacked for being from a particular ethnicity. Youíve traveled across the world, itís never happened to you before, but you were warned and, it did.

A French gentleman probably my fatherís age, flying Business Class apologetically said, ďIíve been flying since the past 35 years and Iím sorry but Iíve only seen this happen to certain people, Iím really sorry.Ē I made a few friends there since we all were stranded together, one of my friend Jo who is a Dutch National just e-mailed me saying she was offered a compensation package from KLM. Meanwhile, we are yet to hear from either KLM or Air France. Surprising, donít you think? Considering we were the ones who were left to fend for ourselves at the airport without an iota of assistance from Air France?

Itís an incoherent mess. There was absolutely no assistance, ever. Every time we needed something, we would have to travel across Terminals, meet new Air France Officials each time and have to request them for all of our basic needs. There were really old, senior citizens, an old patient suffering from Asthma and perhaps, just out of customer care, couldnít there have been an Official assigned to tend to our grievances personally?

10.00 pm: Mr Subhransu Mishra, Ms Shruti Kore and I proceed towards the resting area on the upper deck of the Terminal where we are asked to retire for the night. We head to the Air France counter there and request for a Blanket and a Bed Sheet, once again weíre asked to wait incessantly as theyíve run out of bed sheets and blankets. After 45 minutes we get our ďresting kitĒ. They also issue us a new Boarding Pass for the Flight tomorrow and inform us that theyíve arranged a completely new flight for us, which would be flying out at 10.50 am just like our original departure time. We complete the formalities and go back to the floor. We reunite with the rest of the Passengers. A few passengers manage to occupy the sleeping chairs whereas everyone else has to sleep on the floor. It is not surprising to notice that out of all the passengers in the entire upper deck resting area, we barely spot anyone from a nationality other than India.

12.00 pm: Subhransu picks a corner to charge his laptop so that he could write to his family and is still overwhelmed with emotions because he isnít sure if heíll get to see his father one last time. By now, weíre all tired and exhausted but still in shock about the treatment meted out to all of us. By 1.30 am, I call it a night and put on my headphones to try and catch some sleep in bits and pieces.

10th October 2013

7.00 am: We head to Terminal K Gate 49 once again and go to Exki to redeem our Breakfast Vouchers.

Weíre allowed 1 Danish pastry and 1 hot/soft drink. I grab a bowl of soup only, which is half the price of the voucher, since the pastry has eggs and I donít drink tea/coffee or aerated drinks. I head to the Cashier, explaining and requesting her to let me take the bowl of soup instead of the two. She calls the Chef who is a young man not older than 30-34 years and perhaps, with a missing cerebrum. He is infuriated and with an overcompensating display of anger points out the only two things I am supposed to have as per the voucher. He doesnít ask me to buy the soup, he doesnít refuse politely but he raises his voice and tries to insult me in front of every one else. I raise my voice louder than his and tell him why I got the soup in the first place. The pastry has eggs, which I donít eat, and theyíve run out of vegetarian food. I also point out lividly that anyone who has this voucher is someone who is stranded at the airport without a choice and showing some courtesy to anyone holding the voucher wouldnít harm him in any way. I push aside the tray and move on. Heís completely startled; everyone around is also surprised with his behavior and they put in a word.

8.30 am: We meet the rest of the passengers who had gone to the hotels for the stay and wait for our flight.

Thatís where I meet one elderly gentleman who is going to Baroda. Iím amazed at what he has to say. His flight from Newark to Paris on the 7th was delayed and therefore he missed his connecting flight to Bombay from Paris, so they put him on our flight only for that flight to have been cancelled too. I canít believe it! He looks like heís preparing himself for the role of Mr Viktor Navrovski from the movie Terminal. Imagine spending two whole nights at an airport you didnít prepare yourself for!

9.45 am: Once again, as if this is an endless joke, our flight is delayed. Weíve lost all hope and I feel like Iím part of a stupid prank let alone a very expensive one. They say the flight will leave at 1.50 pm. Sick of their nonsensical replies and unrealistic reasons, I just want to get home but Iím having trust issues with this company on monolithic proportions.

1.30 pm: We realize weíre being accommodated in an existing, scheduled flight as against what was told to us, that a special flight was arranged only for us.

All the pieces of the ever so confusing puzzle finally fell into place. Air France never organized a special aircraft for us, why would they when they cancelled our flight due to under utilized capacity anyway? We were just being accommodated on a scheduled flight. Two flights in one? You do the math!

2.25 pm: Weíre finally heading to Bombay.

Now let me throw some facts and figures.

Air France Flight AF 218 is an Airbus A330-200 Aircraft. The average seating capacity of this Aircraft is 209 passengers. The number of stranded passengers in all was not more than 45. The final aircraft we boarded on the 10th of October was on full capacity. Perhaps our original flight was cancelled due to the high number of empty seats? Was it easier to cancel an empty aircraft rather than fly one, resulting in huge savings? Also, it makes even more sense to accommodate two flights in one. Maximum returns? We were not even given accommodation or proper food. Could this be the reason?

My guess is as good as yours!

Getting back to you, Alexandre, I donít think thereís much left to say.

Iím over and done with this debacle but not without spreading the word about your service amongst my friends and family. Thereís no doubt that your company is not competent or professional enough to take passengers world over. You may get defensive and say that this is a one-off incident but unfortunately, it isnít. Number of people have voiced a similar opinion about the treatment meted out to them by your company. It is rather unsettling. Donít know the effect this letter might have on your customer service but rest assured, you can thoroughly deduct an average of 5000$ from your annual profits if not more. Although that might be just a whisker in your overall mess, itíll be one which was done with due diligence. Weíve had enough of your staffís condescending bull****. We have encountered inadequacy of service, which I never knew was possible for such a big company along with ignorance and stupidity of humungous proportions.

Let me make it very clear, we donít fly your airlines for free and more often than not are the only people flying on this particular sector. You might try and make some damage control but be completely sure, that we will never forget the way weíve been treated at the hands of your staff. You have failed miserably in meeting the expectations of your customers based on the promises youíve made to them.

I will be circulating thing letter amongst popular press and media along with a court summons weíre in the process of filing. This is a true account of what happened in Paris, Charles De Gaulle Airport.

Your new best pal,
Jay Shah

As I get through with writing this letter, Iíve spoken to 8 individuals from India who were on the same flight. None of them have received any calls or emails regarding the Compensation yet from the Air France - KLM Group. Numerous emails have been sent, numerous forms have been filled but the incompetent company has yet to make any ground.

Name: Shah Jay
Booking Reference Number: 4B7WMU
First Port of Boarding: John F. Kennedy Airport, USA
Connect Flight: AF 218
Flight cancelled at: Charles De Gaulle, Paris
Old Oct 31, 2013, 1:59 AM
pattis pattis is offline
Airline Employee (NOT OFFICIAL REP)
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: U.S.
Posts: 147

I needed a good laugh..I found it here.
Old Oct 31, 2013, 3:47 PM
azstar azstar is offline
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 375

This is articulate, well-written, and funny. But, it's way too long. No airline person responsible for responding is going to read it all.
Old Oct 31, 2013, 7:21 PM
Burgers Burgers is offline
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 104

As someone that owns/runs an operation that interacts with thousands of customers a day if I were to receive a note like the OP"s it would end up in the trash. We have people that screen our mail/email for consumer complaints, and generally good one's these are passed to a senior member of customer service, whiners go to anyone in customer service.
Writing a complaint stick to what is relevant, and keep it succinct and to factual. If you threaten to not use a product or service, go on a public shaming campaign the inclination to help you has just gone to zero - why help, you just said you aren't coming back.
Be specific on the remedy you seek and be realistic - remember its a big deal to you but this happens all the time in the business and we can't compensate everyone to the level they'd like.
Don't be 'cute' in your note, this isn't a creative writing class or comedy hour... the OP's note is way too glib to be taken seriously. Don't be a bull in a China shop... no one is impressed with a testosterone soaked writing.
Old Apr 18, 2016, 2:33 PM
Giustiziere Mascherato Giustiziere Mascherato is offline
Join Date: Apr 2016
Posts: 3
Default Dont let them get away

If you need help in claiming compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight, then we can help you! We offer a free service which will help you get back the money you deserve. We calculate how much compensation you are entitled to, we generate a claim letter with all the necessary legal information and provide you with all the contact information. Don't let them get away with it!
air france, air france rudeness, flight cancellations, klm shame, racist

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