Tell me about Air France

Recently, a Doper posted a pit thread about his horrifying experience with Alitalia, which convinced me never to fly with that airline. However, I have a long-standing reservation to fly with Air France this June, and now I’m a bit nervous. Air France isn’t a horrible airline, is it? I hope not - we’re booked on a ten hour nonstop flight each way and it would truly suck if AF was one of those nightmare organizations.

Anyone have any experiences to relate (she asks anxiously)?

All airlines are horrible. They all give perfectly good service— about half the time. But the other half, you get screwed. And when you’re exhausted, hungry and really,really frustrated at being screwed, you end up with a good, scary story that you tell for the next couple years.
So roll the dice, and hope for the best–'cause its all a matter of blind luck whether you arrive on time and in a good mood, or the total opposite.

Nothing like the reputation of Alitalia. Fairly recently, Air France and KLM merged, and they’re just a typical big carrier. Not as plush as Singapore Airlines or even Virgin, but not something to worry about.

Too late now since you got a ticket.

Every time I’ve flown Air France or BA in economy class, they’ve limited me to one, single carry-on. That is, essentially, a laptop bag. That’s a deal-breaker for me right there. They also had much tighter seat packing in economy, to the point where if the ticket was free I still wouldn’t fly on them. American, United, Continental, and even (shudder) Delta let you take one item + laptop-sized bag.

It’s possible that AF and BA have changed, but every single time I’ve flown on them they’ve forced me to check every bad except a small handbag.

I find the food on AF to be unpalatable, even in Business/First Class. I rank it about at the level of LOT. Even the wine on AF is wretched. Pack your coat/purse with Baileys’ Mini’s beforehand and drink those.

The toilets on long AF flights can be horrifying. As in “I know I have an exploding bladder, but maybe I can wait another 5 hours…” I have no idea why this is, it’s just been my experience.

Most, if not all, European airlines do have a one-carryon-bag rule, and also have size & weight limits for it. Which can be a bastard when you’re travelling with a violin. How strictly it’s enforced depends on how full the flight is, how well you’re able to manipulate what you’re carrying (I’ve long suspected that BA’s unofficial advice to staff is "if the passenger is able to lift the bags up to show you how much they’re carrying, they’re OK), and how nicely you smile at them.

I flew AF about 5+ years ago. I found the food to be above average for airlines. However, on the way back we had a horrendous experience.

When we went to check in, the clerk told us we could get $350 each back if we agreed to take a later flight. We agreed, and the clerk gave us a form of some sort to take to another desk. When we got there, the person there told us the reward was significantly less, something like $200. I insisted, showed her where the previous clerk had written down the amount, but she still refused, and finally ended up tearing up our tickets. We then had to try to re-acquire our original tickets, which had by now been given to someone else. We eventually got on a flight, but with widely separated seats. I was traveling with my daughter, who at the time had a terror of flying. Add to all of that, the atmosphere and attitude. There was no organization, no orderly queue, just mobs of people crowding around and you had to fight your way to the attention of the clerk, who did not seem to stay focused on any one task and sometimes just darted off for no apparent reason. No particular concept of customer service at all. Oh, and they destroyed my hard-sided American Tourister luggage – one of those that they used to advertise as indestructible.

No, I don’t think I’ll ever fly Air France again.

But then, you’ve already got your ticket.

Last flight I took I was on British Air and they seemed pretty good.

I’ll second that. I flew to Barcelona and back a couple of months ago. On the return flight, I was near the back and got stuck with what I believe was the vegan meal. I didn’t even want to look at it, let alone taste it or even smell it.

Each flight had a connection in Paris. One of the terminals at DeGaulle is under construction, so there’s a 20-30 minute bus ride after you exit the plane to actually get to the airport. This made me miss my connecting flight on the way to Barcelona, so I had to sit around DeGaulle for a few hours to wait for my next flight. On the way back to the States, some ground workers for AF went on strike or something. :confused: I was stuck at DeGaulle for about four hours.

But that was just one trip. I seem to have bad flying luck anyway.

They did however have individual TV screens and a nice selection of movies on my flight. Walk the Line, Good Night & Good Luck, Jarhead, plus several more. For some reason, I spent most of my time watching that screen that shows you where the flight is and how much time is left. I wish I could sleep on planes.

Well, as the Alitalia basher, I’ll toss in my two cents here too :slight_smile:

AF is a decent airline. I haven’t had any negative feedback about them at work. Keep in mind, though, that as chappachula said, all airlines are horrible. Flying is a very convenient way to get around, but being crammed into a small metal tube thousands of feet in the air really isn’t my idea of a fun time. And I like to fly. Contradictory, I know.

I’d recommend checking out Seat Guru to see where you’re sitting and what the plane will be like.

Also, for general AF info, check FlyerTalk, and it’s AF forum.

And remember, the best seat on any flight is the jump seat. Get to know a pilot or work for an airline, and that can be arranged - an experience not to be missed.

I’m always astounded that people actually eat the food served on airplanes. Salmonella at 30,000 feet would not be a fun time. I never had any particularly bad times on AF, BA or on Lufthansa, the other big commuter airline in Europe. The worst was probably on Aeroflot, but that was back in the bad old days. KLM was outstanding the one time I flew them, but that was in first class across the pond.

You’re on a flight for 8-18 hours, with 1 hour on the ground taking off, and maybe half an hour or longer to food on the back end. While you can typically take food on, many times it’s a juggling act. I can go without food for a couple of days and soldier through it, but I’ll hazard 99% of typical people cannot.

Air France is as good - or bad - an airline as your luck that day. I’ve had good experiences with them and bad ones. And about strikes at CDG airport, well, unfortunately that seems to be a very common thing. I was once stuck for 8 hours in the terminal and, of course, the seats sucked (just like in any other airport).

If I had to rate airlines by how bad the service was Alitalia would be the worst (two flights, both disastrous). American Airlines (many flights, most of them uncomfortable, late, service sucked or all of the above. Copa will be the third worst, they misplaced my luggage when I was going to take a ship out of Manzanillo port the next day. Luckily they found it, and since that was an only time I would probably fly them again. All the other airlines I’ve flown seemed to fare slightly better in the suckish department (c’mon Swiss Air, $6 EUR for a coffee and a croissant? You gotta be nuts!)

Have flown from Europe to USA several times.

Air France, once - food was OK, flight was OK, service was snotty and it was like they didn’t want to be bothered while they were on vacation. Plus, had a long layover in Orly and that airport is WAY overpriced, with equally crappy service and staff.

British Airways - average everything, from service to food.

Lufthansa - always good.

Air India - from Frankfurt to NYC - best flight I have ever had, great service, fantastic food, on time.

Icelandic - cheap, fun, but not direct - you have to go through Iceland, but if you do, stay a day or two there - it is a fun place to visit.

“Look - there is an Airitalia plane flying up there!”
“How can you tell?”
“There is hair under the wings.”

They’re ok. I did a Paris-Singapore leg with them with my (then) 7 month old recently. There was some sort of a stuff up with seat allocations and we didn’t get a bassinet. Once on board the staff worked quitely but effectively to fix the situation.

I wouldn’t put them on the top rung with Sinagpore Qantas and Emirates, but they’re fine.

Air france is apparently OK - I’ve never used them, but they don’t have the reputation some of the dodgier carriers like AL have. On the other hand, Terminal 1 at Charles de Gaulle is the third crappiest airport building I have ever been in, bested in awfulness only by the domestic and international terminals at Nairobi.

The only good think you can say about CDG T1 is at least it’s never collapsed and killed anyone, unlike terminal two.

Thanks for all the replies. I’m a bit reassured - I know that any airline trip can suck on any given day, and AF doesn’t sound any better or any worse than what I’ve experienced before. Good tip about European airlines possibly not letting us have but one dinky carry-on each - we’ll plan accordingly when we pack.

As far as food goes, we usually stop at a good grocery store/deli and pack along a few good sandwiches, cookies and nuts. I’ve vowed never to eat anymore airline food as long as I live!

I avoid Air France because it goes through CDG which is my least favorite airport ever. The food is okay, though, and I have never had a nightmare experience with them.

When I am flying to Europe, I always try to go with British Airways. They feed you a lot, which many American carriers don’t, and they give you socks. Most transcontinental flights have individual entertainment systems, too, which the last American carrier I went to Europe on didn’t. The tradeoff is that you have to go through Heathrow, and through Heathrow security, and miles and miles of Heathrow hallways, and ride the Heathrow buses… but you’ve gotta admit, that airport has the best shopping :slight_smile:

All I can say to these comments: Crossair, RIP. Has any other airline tried to turn a profit while providing economy passengers with parma ham salads, and unlimited champagne on 9am short-hop flights?

So true! :slight_smile:
I have flown many a time on BA, and once on Alitalia, and have always been absolutely fine going over the Atlantic, but coming back, laden with bottles of wine and/or olive oil, it can be a bit tricky, but I just use a smallish backpack, and I have only been turned down for carryon once, and that was for weight.

Air France lost my son’s backpack for four days (on a 10 day school trip to Greece).
AF did send him (and each of the rest of his group, after they all wrote letters as a school project) a voucher for $350. AF also gave him a really cool toilet kit filled with goodies, he still uses it.
It happened because of some runway mixup–likely something to do with CDG.

As for amenities, food and drink, I think BA (yes, the socks!) is quite decent, ditto Alitalia, and when I flew KLM for the first time in February, I thought their food was okay, too.

Yeah, I’m not saying I never eat the stuff, but if I can get away with not doing so, then I’m usually much happier. Airline food is the antithesis of what one should be consuming on an airplane: salty, carb-laden, fatty food. And regardless of how hungry I am, if I can’t readily identify what it is (burrito fillings, shepherd’s pie, and the like), there’s no way it’s going in my mouth. Food in first class is usually a step up, but nowadays even that is taking a dive.

Meanwhile this story is worthy of a thread in the Pit, although Airbus is now denying it.