September 2014 Archives

strictly speaking, the phrase was, Qu'ils mangent de la brioche*

Air France cancelled our holiday.

Only early this afternoon, when I had fortuitously come upon a news article in the front section of the Sunday New York Times did I become aware even of the possibility of a disruption in our plans for a two-week holiday. The Times, even with a deadline some 15 hours earlier than my reading of it, seemed pretty certain there would be no Air France flights on the day we were scheduled to fly out of JFK. That would be tomorrow.

As of five o'clock today (September 14), we had still received no notice from Air France that either of their flights we had scheduled to get us from New York to Lisbon via Paris has been cancelled, although immediately after reading the report in the Times, we checked the carrier's own web site and saw that the flight from Paris to Lisbon was definitely cancelled.

We were unable to find an alternative to that flight, or to the original flight plan overall. We found nothing which could get us to Lisbon in less than 18 to 24 hours on a carrier which wasn't scary. Our plan had taken a great deal of time and effort to assemble, and serious money for the tickets. Now we had no choice but to cancel the entire trip, including hotels, car rental, and our two round trip tickets (four Air France flights), as well as the passion which went into its planning.

The demands of the pilots, as I understand them, seem to me to be both reasonable - and exceptionally unselfish. According to the New York Times article, they are "seeking to ensure that the 250 new pilots the group aims to hire for [Transavia, its newly-expanded] budget carrier over the next five years will be employed under the same contract as those flying under the main Air France brand.".

Just because they are real people, and not corporations, and people to whom we entrust our lives every time we fly, I wish the pilots well.

We're not thinking good thoughts about their employer however. Air France just might be as incompetent in business as it is disrespectful of real people, and shoddy in its treatment of good customers. Incompetent, because the dispute should never have gotten to this point, (and not even because it will cost the corporation something like $26M a day to refuse the pilots' demands), and its corporate peremptoriness will now be displayed in the full glare of daylight; disrespectful because of its lack of communication with its customers; and shoddy because it has refused to refund the considerable cost of fares paid for services they themselves withdrew without any notice, offering us only a voucher good for one year.

* with apologies to Marie Antoinette, as the phrase's connection to her is completely apocryphal

ADDENDUM: Air France has now refunded the money we paid for our fares, by crediting the card used to pay for the trip.

The pilots strike is now apparently over, although without an agreement, after two weeks which disrupted the travel plans of nearly a million people, and may have cost the airline close to half a billion dollars. It's not certain that anyone involved gained anything.

[image from Wikipedia]

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