Monday, April 22, 2002

Air France Wasted My Life
It's good to be home. No thanks to Air France.

I was supposed to be back in Boston around 5:30 p.m. Thursday but didn't hit my apartment on Magazine Street until about 8:45 p.m. Friday, 27 hours later, not including the time I spent flying over the Atlantic Ocean. My flights home started off without a hitch. The leg from Turin, Italy, to Paris, was quick, and despite a brief stopover at Charles de Gaulle, things looked good. We were delayed because of a mechanical problem on the plane that was to take us to the States -- a compressor in the left wing's engine. It's good they wanted to fix it, but it's not good that they kept us on the tarmac and in the gate area for six-plus hours before deciding it was taking too long, canceling our flight, and guaranteeing that we missed the other flights from Paris to Boston that day.

So, after waiting in line for about an hour after the flight's cancelation, I had Friday's plane tickets, as well as a meal and hotel voucher in hand -- and instructions on how to catch the shuttle bus to my lodging for the night, the Ibis Hotel just on the edge of the airport. I spent another 45 minutes at the crummy, closed (especially for us) airport restaurant Brasserie Flo waiting to be served some cole slaw and stuffed chicken, and the waiter -- who was overextended, granted -- never did bring me any water, much less anything else to drink. Then I waited for the shuttle, which took another 30 minutes to come back around while a cool rain fell.

Finally getting to the Ibis around 11 p.m., I considered my fate. Here I was in Paris, stuck in a small room with nothing to do until 1 p.m. the next day, when I was scheduled to fly to Montreal, Quebec, Canada. You see, the "best" Air France could do rerouting me home was to send me to Canada early the next afternoon. No first flight out. No morning passage. Then I'd sit in the airport in Montreal for five hours before continuing onto Boston. Sigh. The Ibis was overrun with junior high school kids on a French class trip (I'm guessing), also delayed overnight, and the payphone lines were extremely long and loud as the kids called home to talk to their parents. The phones in our rooms didn't work. Because Air France was picking up the bill and the hotel registration staff didn't get any billing information from us as we checked in, the phones were off. Who would they bill the calls to? So I had a couple of beers in the hotel bar, watched a little MTV, and drifted off to sleep in my closet of a room.

Friday morning I spent several hours at Charles de Gaulle, opting to be bored at the airport rather than at the hotel. My flight to Montreal was on time (thank the gods), and once I arrived at Dorval, it looked like I'd be able to make standby for an earlier departure -- avoiding the five-hour stopover. After a brief hang up at security -- they didn't recognize my iPod for a legitimate consumer electronics product, and I had to box it up and check it separately because the batteries were dead -- I was at the gate. Then that flight (now on Delta, to be fair to Air France) was delayed because of weather on the East Coast.

But I made standby, the plane eventually made it off the ground, and I finally got home. Now if only I could get those 27-plus hours of my life back, things would be just great. It's good to be back, no thanks to Air France.

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