A Night in Paris

Disclaimer: This is a sort of #whatifeel so no need to lose sleep over this.

I recently came across this article ‘One night in Paris‘ getting shared by my friends on facebook. I guess many Indians are doing the same all over the world. It is a tale of how disappointed an Indian felt for his flight getting cancelled in Paris and the hardships he had to face in the airport.

The article in question is an open letter to the CEO of Air-France/KLM. The author makes a fairly well documented case for airport/airline harassment. He gives a nicely portioned account of how the airline first delayed and then cancelled his flight to India. On top of that they didn’t arrange for a replacement flight. They were refused transit Visas and had to spend the night in the airport. They were given food coupons and bedding (‘resting kit’ he says) albeit with some delay. The next day they were accommodated on a different flight. All sounds good, doesn’t it? He claims otherwise. Now I realize perfectly that he doesn’t have to feel judged by me but since he posted his article online I feel I have the right to judge him as I please on my part. I feel this is nothing but a spoilt Indian kid’s angry tantrum for something that he didn’t have any control over.

He says the flight delay is not informed to the passengers in person. Now those of you who have visited Indian airports may know that this is something that is so common in India that it may as well be expected everytime a flight is delayed in India. I feel for him here since we do seem to hold foreigners to have better service standards than ourselves, unfortunately for him I do not feel this is particularly true as many foreigners will tell you themselves. He then says the airline fails to understand his pain of being away from his family for a month, one whole month! can you believe it? actually yes I can. I have been away from home for a long time, a year for the matter. This is what I tell him, don’t be mad young child, people spend a big part of their lives away from their family, especially if they are not from one of the Asian countries. I know you are not used to being away from your family but learn to accept it, learn from the experience and move on. He talks of getting lunch vouchers but asked to go to a certain restaurant. I’m sorry I just don’t feel his pain here. The airline obviously has an arrangement with that particular restaurant and so wanted you to only go there. Is that really difficult to accept? I’m sorry if you felt like cattle being driven around but in essence international travel is little more than that anyways. Don’t like the feel? get rich and get a plane yourself or you could try growing up, your choice.

He says they are refused transit visas upon the flight getting cancelled. He seems to be confused and angry ( “utter disbelief” he says) . I’m sorry but I didn’t know transit visas are granted by airlines. I always thought transit visas are granted by border control, but I accept I may be wrong ( I don’t think I am though) since I have never had to get a transit visa. I am not sure but I think he may have tried to get a transit visa himself if he really wanted it. He then progresses to try for some sympathy since he points out the problem of one Mr. Subhransu Mishra. His father has died a few days ago and he is flying to see him one last time. Mr. Subhransu Mishra gets all of my sympathy, I wish he didn’t have to face all of this on this very important flight, but to me Mr. Mishra seems a lot more grown up about the problem than the author himself. This is a sad situation but one that is rather common in our growingly capitalist society. A problem that an Indian should be well aware of for being from India. Don’t like it, change it. Don’t just complain and then expect someone else to take care of your problems for you.

He is refused access to Air France’s business lounge. I am sorry, flight cancellation can be tiresome and frustrating but it is not such an emergency situation such that the airline has to inconvenience all of its business class passengers. Maybe you could have picked an airline which has an economy class lounge. Business class passengers pay a hefty premium to have their perks, but I believe you could have flown business class too. I wonder how you would have reacted if passengers from another cancelled flight came in to relax in the lounge and you couldn’t find a place for yourself. He talks of many passengers who could not speak English and were frightened and eager to get home. I figure he is talking of the elderly Indians. I wonder if HE could have helped these people since I think he may be able to speak Hindi. However I get the abject feeling that he sees their plight, feels sad, feels angry (assumption here!) and then abandons them to their plight (you’ll see later on). I agree Air-France dropped the ball, but you could have done your part rather than only expect others to do theirs. He says the airline failed to provide wheelchairs to the elderly even though they could see 20 wheelchairs very near on the grounds that they belonged to another airline. I am sorry they had to face Air-France’s incompetency of not being able to provide wheelchairs but I do not understand why he feels angry at the reason given for not providing the wheelchairs in front of them. I think its a very good reason. In case they were given these wheelchairs and the other airlines had such as emergency then I wonder how those passengers would have reacted to being told “we don’t have wheelchairs because some other airlines took the ones meant for you”, I wonder how the author would have reacted had he been in their shoes, hit someone? I guess.

He says he has to change terminals everytime he needs something. Unfortunate but something very common in international travel and something you should be prepared to do. As to an official being assigned to them still doesn’t solve the problem of who is going to deliver all the stuff they need although that should have been done for mediation purposes at any rate. He is furious that he has to wait 45 minutes to get bedding and blankets (‘resting kit’). Really! 45 minutes is your grievance! I had to wait longer to check-in last time I traveled International in normal circumstances. He says they had to sleep on the floor. Boo hoo hoo! really on the hard floor? where a mojor portion of our 7 Billion sleep, some without even a roof over them? wow! life really is hard on you, you poor creature. Here he points out something that perplexes me. He says that everyone on the “upper deck resting area” are mostly Indians. I figure he was on a flight to India (Bombay he says) so majority may as well be Indians. As to non-Indians not being there that’s probably because EU visa holders don’t require transit visas. There were probably some non-EU non-Indians and he does say that some non-Indians were there.

The next day’s account is even more compelling. They are given food vouchers for breakfast. Danish pastry and tea/coffee (not a bad breakfast by any means, least of all the rubbish they serve in many airlines). Now the author is vegetarian and on top of that doesn’t drink tea/coffee or aerated drinks. The world is mostly non-vegetarian and its very common at places to not get vegetarian options, I doubt he has a better experience in US when he visits his sister. Logistics is something that is important to people who deal in numbers and the restaurant people probably are. He then tells how he won a shouting match with the restaurant cook ( shows him, then hah!). I have always believed that being able to shout louder than the other person is a sign of immaturity rather than smartness. They then get their flight. Its another flight and not one that is specially arranged for them. He says they were not properly accommodated, I wonder what that means. Did they not get seats and had to stand? I think not. He says their original flight barely had 45 people in a flight of 300 seating. So all his complains have been about 45 people and now he is angry that the accommodated flight didn’t have empty seats? I don’t get it, I think he just thought how he would enjoy a near empty flight and was disappointed to have missed out on that. He says they are going to miss out on $5000 worth of annual profit ( I think he means business). $5000 !!! that’s a lot of flying Air-France, I wonder why he continues to fly Air-France even when he has heard of all the untoward instances of experiences (as he says he did). Maybe he ignored them. I wonder what that says about him.

A Dutch national is offered compensation package while the author is yet to from the airlines. I believe this is so because losing the Dutch business would be a greater loss to Air France or perhaps because someone in the Dutch tourism board may pick this up. Indian tourism board? they wouldn’t bother. I sometimes get the distinct feeling that they would rather you not leave the country (which may actually be true). He says that he is going to file a court case. You go ahead Mr. Author, you have every right to feel aggrieved and every right to file a legal case as you point out that the incident was at the fault of EU law. I feel for your experience and I am going to do my best to avoid Air-France myself but please don’t go about saying that they failed on humanitarian levels since you did jack for all the plight your co-passengers had to face. I think you are an angry consumer who has been faulted but I also feel that you are rich, spoilt and in truth in-sensitive to everyone around you. Au Revoir to you and good luck growing up.

Advertisements

20 thoughts on “A Night in Paris

    • Mr. Ravi… please look at the reply from Air France in that blog post and see if there refer to this issue… And more than that, its not just about another flight, but mainly about how you treat stranded customers. Hard to believe, you guys don’t understand the feeling of a stranded customer. You will get your day, someday soon and get to know the pain. I’m not wishing it against, it is bound to happen.

      • I’ve already had my day being a stranded customer. I myself was fairly well treated but I did hear of bad experiences. It is easy to lose your temper and lose common sense but rather difficult to help others when they need help…….. the times we live in.

  1. What an absolutely childish response to what seems to be a genuine harassment issue. Looks like you’ve come to the US to do an MS, how long have you been here? If your answer is less than two years, I suggest living here longer and growing up a bit more to understand the ways of the world. Pointing out the minor details in a story and overlooking the actual issue is not very bright – you’ll probably need some work experience to understand problem solving and not losing focus too. I have missed a connection to India, and was very nicely taken care of in Bahrain by Gulf Air. All over the world, missing flights happens, all airline companies have an emergency response and making you sleep in the airport and not getting transit visas for you are NOT part of that response. There are severe repurcussions for an airline that does not handle the situation well – poor feedback and loss of business is one, but I’m talking about legal fines and action.

    I think you’re unnecessarily detracting from the issue by writing a blog to bring down a passenger whose travails you can’t even fathom and circulating it through social media. Get back to all of us when you are going back to India as a grown up, maybe when your sibling is getting married, and then get treated like garbage, having to spend four days out of your two week vacation in an airport. Talk to us about your ‘logistics’ and humanitarian needs when your vegetarian parent has been starved 36 hours by an incompetent airline crew. Now go do your homework. Just when you think the power of social media might actually work in Jay Shah’s case, an idiot case like this comes along!

    • Indeed Sukanya, I’ve been here less than two years, but I’ve had my fair share of travel difficulties myself. I’m sure the majority out there will not look at the minor details but I can’t. If the airlines failed to cater to their emergency needs then the airline is indeed at fault, that is never in question in my post. We only ever want to see our own individual needs and I’m sure if all those situations that you point out happens then indeed I’ll feel hard done by. The airline failed them in a major way and should get their punishment.

      Logistics is not for me but for the business that has agreed to sell a fixed number of items to a certain group for food vouchers. As you may have read many flights were cancelled out of Charles De Gaulle that day. There were probably more people. If you have ever seen a rescue situation then you may have known how difficult it is to keep track of things and how quickly you can run out of supply. However I feel that you failed to understand why I feel Mr. Shah failed on humanitarian grounds. Couldn’t he help with translation when the others couldn’t speak English? Couldn’t he help with multiple trips with one wheelchair when they were refused three? The actions of others (the airline) is never in our control even though we may expect it, but how do we act when others fail on our expectations. I feel Mr. Shah could have done more by himself.

  2. Finally one post in reply to that blog – which I agree with. I fly pretty frequently internationally and I have faced all the issues this naive kid has. And I agree with the post above, this kid needs to wake up and grow up. Crying wont get him anywhere.

    Seriously? 1 month away? That pissed me off the most……clearly, he tried to write anything that came to his mind. I’m sure, under better circumstances, he’d laugh at his own blog. This guy should stay at home. Mama’s boy. 🙂

  3. Nice retort Anirban to what can only be termed as an uncontrolled session of mental masturbation by an immature and spoilt little boy who aspires to be a ‘fighter of justice’ but ends up making a joke out of himself. The online world breeds these kinds of idiots and hundreds of other idiots ‘liking’ it.

  4. Anirban, you article is missing some facts. Europe has serious laws against delays (of more than 2 hours) and cancellation.

    Some knowledge of logistics and probability either. The airline plans for this cost. The airline must be spending a few hundred euros on the passengers who stayed at hotel. If these passengers did not get a transit visa and then airline could have spend the same few hundred euros on them on the airport, and rather then saving a valid expense for themselves at the incorrect decision of the french immigration officials. BTW, the cost of entering a business lounge is only 35 euros. This expense is much smaller than the room rent they would be paying at hotel rooms.

    Regarding the logistics, a decade back, I had to go through such a thing with KLM. What KLM did was handed over the cash to the passengers. This is a simpler logistics than arranging a hotel room etc, which other passengers want. So if they worry about the logistics, then it is the easiest opportunity to them to hand over cash to these passengers. Delta airlines hand over credit cards to the passengers in such situation. If the airline is making arrangements with the restaurants, it is due to saving its own cost. A ten euro meal is paid only five euro to a restaurant, since the passengers would not be willing to accept 5 euros for a meal voucher. I am sure, the author would be happy with even a 5 euro meal voucher. Similarly a 200 euro hotel costs the airline like 100 euros. I am sure the passengers would be willing to accept 100 euros vouchers. Leave the rest on the capitalism. When passengers have 100 euros voucher with them, the businesses at the airport would take care of all the needs of the passengers, e.g., opening a resting hotel or a better than business lounge for delayed passengers.

    Now regarding the visa, here the author’s subtle claim is that the airline did not even apply for it, since there should be a rejection slip, and the bars for transit visa are really low, an outbound travel arrangement which these passengers had. If a country declines transit visa in these situations without any grounds, this is a serious diplomatic matter beyond the incompetency of a single airline. I have gotten transit visa at frankfurt very easily.
    If this is a one of case of declining transit visa when the passengers have a valid outbound flight, and a hotel stay reserved, one possibly should take it at an airline level, and let the airline figures out with the immigration department of the reasons and inform the passengers. If this is a repeated occurrence, French ambassador to India must be summoned by the foreign ministry and asked to correct it. Author assuming the airline is not submitting the transit visa application is a lowest denominator fault. Your assumption in this article is the biggest possible denominator fault.

    • I agree with you mostly. I do not have all the information, so I assume. The airline indeed could have and should have handled the situation differently, but failed to do so. As you point out EU has strict laws and they should be punished accordingly. It is not necessary that there should be a rejection slip. Since the Gaurdian UK link points out many flights were cancelled that day (upto 50 flights by a single airline for one case), the French border control may have simply refused to process anymore applications. My friends too have gotten transit visa easily but in simpler circumstances, which this was not according to news reports. The author makes a number of those ‘subtle’ claims and I feel these serve only to sensationalize the matter. This is a simple attempt to point out certain points in OP’s story. Yo are welcome to feel as you please and comment freely.

      • I do not understand, if you agree with all this, then why are you accusing the author? Why are you making so many assumption.

        The author is saying all that treatment is unwarranted and he is saying that it is beyond worst expectation. What author did to help his fellow passengers is not a subject of that essay, and if the author had mentioned that, then you would have another complain of self praising.

        What you are saying is just making assumptions to somehow defend those french people? I know many of us Indians have this hypocrisy to not tolerate fault in the first world, when a fault can be found within us minus me.

        The only criticism you seem to have is his writing style, and that made you make him immature. Not everybody is as good as yourself in writing, especially in a foreign language.

        Now back to the specifics of your response. You are making strong assumptions to defend the french passport control, if that is the reason. The basic thing is that either the french airline or the french passport control is at fault. If the airline has a hotel reservation and a outbound flight is booked, there is absolutely no reason for the passengers to deserve to sleep on the floor (yes a vast majority of Indians do sleep on floor, but often that is out of poverty and not out of pleasure). You make a pick, either you find the fault in the passport control folks for not having sufficient staff. That excuse does not make sense, since if the passengers are at the airport, it means the airport is open, and at least some staff is there. There is no reason to refuse valid transit visa application — that is just your assumption. Also passport control people are quite generalists, I have seen the person process both the first world application and as well as the third world application. So why not move some passport control personal from processing the first world application to process the third world application so that both the lines move at the same speed, i.e., if X% of third world people are stranded then so are X% of the first world. If this is not done, that it does satisfy the subtle accusation of the author that somewhere his third world origin played a role.

        Irrespective, the airline should have simply paid 200 euros to these folks to help themselves buy the convenience. Even after paying these 200 euros, the airlines would have come out ahead, as the airline has spent far more on the people who were able to leave the airport. Indeed, flight cancellation is a stochastic event, and the enough expense for such stochastic events is already accounted in the ticket price.

        So really, it is not clear what is your point of this rebuttal is? The person needs to grow up, that is again has nothing to do with the message he is communicating. There are all these assumptions needed, well, again those assumptions needed to be explained to the passengers and appropriate compensation must be made in cash. The airlines in the USA do.

        Business class lounge access are up for sale just like hotel rooms are. Business class lounges is a lesser convenience than a hotel room. So a passenger who deserves an hotel room is asking for the business class lounge is a valid request. As I said, business class lounge access is sold for just 35 euros! So your argument that how much business class passengers spend to stay in those lounges is bullshit (BTW, I mostly travel in business class, and even 35 euros is too much for them).

        The passengers had no fault. The author is on the right to explain the treatment he and his fellow passengers received. He may not be good at writing or may even be immature, but that does not decrease the severity of the treatment he received. Indians who travel internationally, are no less human or even no less poor or no less literate that those first world folks, so there is no reason to accept a suboptimal treatment. You need to grow up in your thinking and need to stand equal with the world.

      • I do not agree with everything he has said, I simply agreed with ‘most’ of what you said. I have made my objections to his account. I do not criticize his writing, I think his writing is excellent. What I made were assumptions which are needed to see a possible other side to the account presented to us. If my assumptions seem like intended to defend the french people then the author’s and your assumptions feel like intended to make a statement. You seem only to fuel his ego and anger. I want to question the author’s actions, not his treatment. I agree he was treated unfairly but it seems to me that you fail to see that the author has made many critical assumptions in his own account and chosen only to speak about his co-passengers rather than try to help them. Maybe someday you’ll realize that it is not all about the numbers and stats that you seem to be very good at. It seems to me that you yourself have very strong 1st world and 3rd world feelings. Maybe you should explore if your reaction stems from those emotions.

        I will apologize if my thoughts cause unintended harm, but people need to learn not to be swept off their feet by pent up emotions and circumstantial anger. Looking at the other side of a story objectively is not narrow-mindedness but maturity. It is not a witch-hunt but rather an attempt to see what people may have missed out on in their confusion and anger. Maybe you have been angry in your life, and may have realized that humans are not a very good judge of their own actions when angry.

  5. He lost me when he said “I am a vegetarian and I cannot take Coffee/tea”… Get a life …. Even I am a vegetarian… I have faced situations like this for a entire month during my trip to Korea … But I look for alternatives .. why couldn’t he pay some extra bucks (out of his own pocket) to have some yoghurt/nuts/salads/fries/cut-fruits ? Alternatives are always there… its all in our mentality….

    I know that whites look-down upon brown skins… Racism has been there for ever…. Its for us to keep ourselves calm… what about casteism in our own country ?? how about a tourist getting raped in our own country ?? Are his tantrums more agonizing those rape victims ??

  6. You have comfortably ignored the important points in the article and have resorted to supporting your claim that the writer is a naive kid. You must have had your piece of trouble during international travels but getting stranded in an airport for more than a day? The main point is the writer feels that Air France cancelled the flight to cut costs of flying a under-booked flight and the passengers have been racially discriminated. Was it so difficult to give the reason for the flight cancellation when passengers have been stranded for more than a day if there was any valid reason?

    You say that it must have been the fear of pressure from Dutch tourism board that prompted settlement to the Dutch national. How does that warrant unequal treatment to Indian nationals? All of them are passengers who have paid same price to travel, aren’t they? Isn’t this bias?

    One wheelchair for four disabled passengers is a definite cause for outrage whether be it due to racial bias or due to sheer incompetence of the airlines.

    Also, this news of mistreatment of Indians by Air France is not unprecedented. It has been reported multiple time by Indian media.


    http://www.hindu.com/2008/07/31/stories/2008073150560200.htm
    http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/indian-passengers-stranded-in-paris/article281353.ece

    You can search for yourself to find more cases.

    Unlike you, the writer hasn’t just written a post for his blog. He is being proactive and pressing charges against the airlines since he feels that that the treatment has been in violation of EU Law. Why do you have to comment on it? He is not simply passing judgement, but is proceeding legally. Cheers to him for that.

    • Maybe you are prejudiced in your reaction given the history of Air-France. Did you see the link in the first comment?

      I haven’t made any claims. perhaps you didn’t read my 1st line – the ‘Disclaimer’. These are not claims, these are thoughts and what I feel.

      I do not have anything to be pro-active about. I write blogs and I have written one. The author has every right to press charges. Do you know that if a matter goes judicial you are barred from accusing anyone publicly?

      As to why I have to comment on it? ‘because’ he has written a blog about it. Its on the internet, I’ve read it and I have my thoughts on it so I’ve expressed them. Its called freedom of speech. Something that you are exercising yourself by commenting on my blog.

  7. Such a childish article based on your own set of assumptions. Read your long rebuttal painstakingly. More than the rebuttal , I can only sense your frustration or is it kinda jealousy for the attention article is getting? What are you trying to hint at? Let things be as is and this is how things are? You talk about people sleeping without roof and shit like that? I seriously do not understand what you are trying to write here. Who cares what amounts he spends on his flights? I do not care whether he is rich or poor. You talk on freedom of speech here? Well, I say, It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. I believe whatever he has raised his voice against is justified and your article or blog or retort whatever you would like to call it is Stupid. You have spent less than 2 years outside your country and you have very little or no experience. I believe you are being a cry baby here! Go ahead delete my comment or write whatever you would like to do. I for definitely am not coming back to your blog. Not worth it!!

    • I will not delete your comment because you have taken the obvious pain of writing it. Thank you for your thoughts.

  8. How much did they pay you to write this ?? Just wondering 🙂 Maybe you will land a job soon with Air France Grievance management cell. I guess you do feel you did a pretty great job of it… !! It seems like its all ok to be treated like this If you are an Indian . Just cos Indians treat foreigners with higher priority ( as you know athithi devobhava) … does that make it an acceptable thing for people to be treated in this manner? No wonder India was ruled by outsiders for so many years when they obviously had stooges which I guess you appear in that form here.. !! You grow up kid… Accidentally bumped into your blog .. my mistake .. dont think many would even come this way even accidentally..!!

    • It appears to me that many have either not read my post or failed to understand what I have said repeatedly – I do agree they were treated wrongly, no question there, I’ve only questioned the OP’s own actions and behavior. But no worries, looks like I have many who think alike and many who think otherwise.

  9. “The next day they were accommodated on a different flight. All sounds good, doesn’t it?”

    You seem to be fine with being stranded on an airport for more than 24hours, without being provided accommodation.

    The fact is, normal people are not.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s