It was around 8pm on a Saturday evening while having dinner that I received a call from back home in Romania informing me that my grandmother had passed away. She was a much-loved grandparent and I wanted to be there for her funeral. However, I had to change a travel booking that I had made in advance for an Easter holiday, which was to start two days later.
Ticket Travails with Air France
The first step was to find the earliest flight tickets out of London to Bucharest. I tried to get in touch with Air France to prepone my outgoing travel dates. It was a futile exercise, as I discovered that their call centres in the UK are open until 8pm only. Air France doesn’t have a 24-hour call centre! So, my only option was to get hold of them the following day.
The next morning, I phoned their call centre at 9.00 when they should’ve opened. After a miserable wait of 30 minutes on hold music, a feminine voice came on the line. I let her know that I was waiting for over half an hour to speak to someone. Instead of being apologetic, she replied, “Well I’m here now.” Upon searching for available flight options, much to my dismay, she offered me a really expensive £461/- business class, one-way exchange option. Put off by her attitude and lack of sympathy for my situation, I searched online for flight options on the Air France website and Facebook page.
Surprisingly, I made some progress on Air France’s Facebook page. A gentleman speaking fluent English got in touch with me. I mentioned that there were cheaper flight options displaying online with Tarom, one of their Sky Alliance Partners. In fact, a few years ago they had offered me a seat on Tarom, as their flight was overbooked. However, they were unwilling to make the same offer now, as, according to the gentleman, their code share agreement with Tarom was shaky. In the end, I had to settle for a £400/- one-way ticket to Bucharest via Paris following a discount of £11/- Up until then, I’ve had a good opinion of Air France, but not anymore.
The fact that my unfortunate personal emergency resulted in me travelling via business class did not blind me to the fact that it was a total rip-off for the price I paid. The added bells and whistles in business class that you won’t find in a no-frills economy class travel included:
- Priority check-in: while it’s quicker, I could do without it
- Priority boarding: a pointless exercise, as the flight leaves at the same time for all classes of travellers
- Lounge access: free food and drink and internet access
- On board facilities: special menu recommended by Yves Camderborde, the celebrated bistronomy chef; extra legroom and cushioned comfort
I must mention that even travelling by business class could not prevent the 30-minute delay in my connecting flight to Paris.
A Sense of Economics
My return trip back to London will be via economy class, my usual mode of travel. For the price I pay to travel in economy, I’m quite satisfied with service, which is a notch lower than business class. While the added service features in business class are welcome, I stand by the fact that they are a complete rip-off for the price you have to pay.
I conclude this write-up with loving memories of the time I spent with my beloved granny. May her soul rest in peace.
P.s. It’s been a few years now since, and I still find it strange to go home and not find her there.