Your time is up at Air France

Mon Dieu! It’s bad enough that airlines keep us on hold interminably. But I’d rather be on hold than not be able to speak with anyone. Air France has a new policy this year that if the agents’ telephone queue is of a certain length, a caller is disconnected after holding for 30 minutes! (Yes, they warn you.)

Over the course of several days I tested the Air France reservations line about five times. Once I got through quickly, twice I got a recording saying the wait time would be four minutes (I didn’t stay on to check) and twice I held for 30 minutes before the call was disconnected. (Of course I was multitasking.)

Customer Service, not our priorityThis is what you could call ANTI-customer service. I asked Air France media relations rep Karen Gillo about the policy. Her answer: “I’m pretty sure we don’t have a policy that says people will be cut off.” Mais oui, I countered, which she later confirmed. I asked how many operators the airline uses and when do they turn on that blasted disconnect message, and of course she said, “we don’t answer proprietary questions.”

This issue came up when I tried to reserve seats for an Air France flight from Oslo to Paris. Had I been paying better attention instead of multitasking, I would have heard the *one* recording in the beginning that in-Europe flights can’t get seat assignments until check-in. (Dangit, I’d known that for years and forgotten.) While I was holding for 30 minutes the message was never repeated.

I know what you’re thinking: go online, you idgit. Well, guess what? I did, and there was absolutely no place that said “make a seat assignment.”

Poor Karen spent two days trying to figure out why that option was missing, passing along all sorts of misinformation before concluding it was because the seat-assignment option was blocked, it being impossible to make one from Oslo to Paris.

So why didn’t the website just say that, I asked? That would have saved, like, an hour of my time. (Not counting writing this.)

“That’s an issue with the software,” she said. “I sent a suggestion to the web people about that.” Karen said she’d let me know if they fix it. (My eyes are rolling.) Feel free to help Karen along by making your own suggestion using Air France’s online form. That is only for comments about their online service. I can’t find a general customer-relations email. If any of you can, I’ll post it here.

As I kept telling Karen, this is not about me (well, a little), but about all the other Air France customers going through the same thing. No computer option; no phone option. What’s a customer to do? Choose a different airline.

When the heck is Southwest going to start flying overseas anyway?

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5 Responses to “Your time is up at Air France”

  1. Dan Waldron Says:

    Great post. I will read your posts frequently. Added you to the RSS reader.

  2. Esteban Kolsky Says:

    Interesting post,

    I see you are taking on the disadvantage (airline industry) and clueless. Not nice :)

    To be honest, I often advocated some sort of this maneuver albeit properly implemented. Now the proper way to do this would be for AF to say “we don’t have a good call center, and the experience of waiting on hold for 30 minutes if now what we want to offer. Thus, we will give users the ability to LEAVE A MESSAGE, with a specified TURN AROUND TIME for us to get back to them. This way, we control expectations and experience”

    Of course, between the should’ve been and the what-it-is there was something lost in translation. There was another company that tried this before… in telecommunications. After about 2 months they saw their churn rate (people leaving them as customers) almost triple. They decided to stop giving their customers an excuse to walk away and changed their model to use more agents.

    BTW, the image of Southwest (which I fly at least 2-3 times a month) doing anything away from here frightens me to no end.

    Thanks for a good post… will keep checking in…

  3. Karen Says:

    I love how you can make a sad tale into an amusing read. Will be interesting to see how the 30 minit cut off plays out at Air France….and if Karen’s input can get their website shaped up…should be a fairly easy edit to add that info! BTW – Cool graphic on the story!!!

  4. didaniel Says:

    You’re absolutely right Karen (in Boston), not to be confused with Air France Karen! I thought to add that and just plain forgot. There’s now a link in the posting for making suggestions. Merci buckets! — Diane

  5. Le site US d’Air France n’est pas compatible Safari : Des Grenouilles dans la Vallée Says:

    […] Air France a déjà quelques problèmes de taille en matière de service clientèle. La compagnie a par exemple une politique particulière en matière d’appel : si vous être maintenu en attente plus de 30 minutes, vous serez automatiquement déconnecté. Si, si. […]

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