Airports – viva la difference – or NOT!
As you may know, I usually avoid mainstream commercial flying unless I can help it – preferring trains and boats to the hustle-bustle of long lines, security checks and more…
Well, on this trip from England to Vienna, I decided to take a flight and had booked Air France from Exeter International Airport through to Vienna with a one hour stopover in Paris. While the entire flight was through Air France, the first leg was operated by Flybe and the second by Austrian Airlines.
In the car on the way from Torquay to the airport, the driver was recounting his airline horror stories and I countered with, “my experience at Exeter will be wonderful – they will not worry that my checked baggage is waaaay heavier than it should be – they will not care that I have every gadget and cable known to man in my carry-on case – my flight will leave on time – it will arrive on time to Paris – my connecting flight will also leave on time and arrive on time in Vienna!”
Well, part of my prophecy came true…
Exeter Airport is delightful! Seriously – it is small and lovely and the staff (including security) are all happy pixies… Their bar is comfortable and everything there feel ever so relaxed…
The next part of my prophecy – my flight left and arrived on time. Check!
On the plane, the woman next to me was telling me about her horror story of being in CDG (Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport) when a young child left her bag unattended and so they blew it up – literally!
When I had checked in at Exeter, I was advised that they were able to book my luggage right through to Vienna, but could not issue me a forwarding boarding pass – something to do with Air France regulations – but “just go to the gate and present this one and your ID and they will print you a boarding pass for your connecting flight”.
No where in my prophecy did I mention being able to actually GET ON my connecting flight – that, by the way, did leave on time – without me!
First of all, we land at CDG and need to not only walk from the tarmac (not a big deal) but then to navigate up a zigzag, multi-level staircase from tarmac level up to the building level… I walked over to a grounds person and asked her if there was a lift/elevator? “No” was the abrupt reply. I responded with, “well then, is there someone who can help me up with my case?”
The disgusted response from this very large American woman with braids, “ain’t no one here gonna carry your case for you!”
Thankfully another grounds person heard this and said they would carry my case up.
Once in the building, every CDG staff member I encountered while asking for information on which gate etc was rude, self-important and arrogant beyond all measure… I was sent here and there and over there and somewhere else… It was always someone else’s problem.
Finally, I went back to the first man I encountered when I entered the building and explained to him what had transpired since he fobbed me off. He gave me instructions to the Air France desk.
Finally get to the Air France desk only to be told by the woman that she could not help, but she would be able to get me through security and then told me to go somewhere else…
After presenting all my paperwork and her paperwork to the security agent (bearing in mind, the security area was completely devoid of travellers at this point), the now rude and angry security officer not only put my belongings through the scanner, but opened and essentially upended my case to search through everything… He even opened my wallet, took out the cash and wiped inside my wallet!!!
It took me about 10 minutes to repack everything into my case and handbag then followed my next set of instructions to another part of the airport – only to be told they couldn’t help me and sent me waaaay away to another part of the airport, only to be told they couldn’t help me… This happened in total three times post-security-man and by this time I have had my passport stamped, been through security twice, pulled a muscle in my back, and am now at yet another Air France desk…
…only to be told – “I cannot help you”… (and at this point, my connecting flight would have already been on final boarding call – somewhere in CDG…)
Well, I lost it. Complete with a very loud voice, expletives and threats, I threw a major temper tantrum at the Air France desk and said I was not going anywhere unless it was via chauffeured wheelchair straight through to the gate of whichever aircraft they were going to transfer me on to!
My tantrum worked and the woman not only transferred me on to another flight that was leaving in 25 minutes and upgraded me, she arranged a wheelchair at the other end and priority clearance through customs.
Perfect! Only, she was not able to get my luggage to join me…….. but, thanks to the wheelchair, I was considered a ‘lost luggage priority customer’ and they found it and delivered it to me the following evening…
…bearing in mind that if I were a ‘normal’ customer, Air France only guarantees to deliver your lost luggage to you within 72 hours of it arriving at your destination airport!
Note to Self:
Never, ever go to CDG again – EVER!!!
…ah, but the story ended well and that’s all that matters… (that and never, ever, ever going to CDG again! LOL!)