This has been a busy year for travel. Our latest trip was to Slovenia, me to teach and the Pianist to perform.
We checked in to leave from Boston on a Friday night. I told the Air France ticket agent we were connecting the next day from Paris to Ljubljana. She looked at her computer and told us there is no such thing as an Air France connection to Ljubljana on Saturday. “You’re on the Sunday flight.”
“That’s not right,” I said. “We’re on tomorrow’s connecting flight. I booked it through Citibank Travel Service.” She repeated herself. There is no such flight.
We decided to go anyway, and while waiting to board the plane, I used my smartphone to reserve a room at the Airport Marriott in Paris. After we landed, we looked for the hotel shuttle at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Apparently there is an airport rule against signs, so we wandered from one person to the next, asking “Ou est shuttle?” and getting a French shrug in return.
We finally made our way to the town of Roissy, which is where the airport hotels are located. We ate well at the hotel restaurant and agreed that someone else should pay for this unexpected 27-hour layover.
After an excellent two weeks in Slovenia, our trip home included an overnight stopover in London. The plane left late due to “technical difficulties,” and we barely made our connection in Paris. By the time we got to London we were traveling light, since our checked bags, mine containing a fresh loaf of Slovenian bread, didn’t make the connection. It was just as well, since Heathrow, the world’s busiest airport, has the world’s longest passport lines.
The next day we made it to Boston, and eventually our luggage showed up after a stopover in Detroit. Customs left a note that they had opened my bag, but they did not confiscate the bread.
A few days later, I called Citi Travel to ask about reimbursement for our night at the Paris Marriott. The “Concierge” was very helpful and asked me to send a copy of the hotel bill. A few days later, she informed me that it wasn’t up to them to notify us when Air France terminated Saturday service from Paris to Ljubljana. It was Air France’s responsibility.
I then entered the dungeon that is Air France “Customer Service.” It turns out you can’t complain to a person over the phone. You have to go online and fill out a form, which I did. I lost any claim to being a customer with a name and became “Case number 19539057.”
Weeks passed, and then an email arrived telling me that when they issue a ticket they don’t make any promises. Then came the “explanation” that the schedule change took place “before departure” (well duh!), and it was up to the travel agency, not Air France, to notify me. The email concluded, “I know that’s not the answer you were hoping for.”
So I called the travel agency, waited while they went looking for the “supervisor,” and told her what Air France had said. She had a two word answer. “They’re wrong.” She then offered me “5000 points” on my frequent flyer account. I told her I didn’t want points, I wanted reimbursement for the hotel. “Call Air France again,” she advised me.
The next day Air France’s “Customer Care” department sent me a “Customer Satisfaction” survey. I loved filling it out. At the end there was a section for “comments.” I suggested that they change the name of the department to “Do Not Care About Customer.”