Reader Mail: Air France Dispute

By | August 1, 2010
Taking by me on march 20 while waiting to boar...
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We received another letter this week, with a not so pleasant story about Air France.

I am getting stonewalled at Air France on a refund request and figure you might know what to do. Below is my original request submitted 3 weeks ago.

“You cancelled my 16 year old son’s ticket in the middle of his trip & did not notify anyone. When we arrived at the airport you insisted that I buy a same day one way first class ticket for $6000 or he would likely not get home for at least two days. What you have done is unconscionable. I would like a full refund of the original purchase price of both of our tickets – as well as the first class ticket you forced me to buy when you capriciously cancelled the flight. I would like you to reimburse me for the 75 Euro VAT reimbursement I was unable to process at the airport because I was at your ticket counter for nearly 2 hours. I would also like to have two complimentary first class round trip tickets so that I can have a trip to France that is not spoiled & overshadowed by the ordeal you put us through.

We were on AF flight 18 & 19 between Newark EWR and Paris CDG. We left on July 6 and upon our return on July 11 you told me that you had accidently deleted my son’s ticket and that you had no record we had paid for the ticket. We were in the middle of the trip when you took this action, we had checked in with all the proper paperwork and credentials – there is no way you could reasonably assert that you did not know we would both be returning or that you did not know the flight was paid in full.

6 July AF 19 EWR-CDG

11 July AF 18 CDG-EWR

I have talked numerous times with the customer service department and refunds department I have disputed the ticket charges with my Credit Card Company I have filed a complaint with the BBB They offered to refund the replacement ticket cost (almost $6,000) but the refund amount was $80 less than I was charged. I waited for supervisor review for a week and received a terse e-mail that they would not reconsider this is their final answer. I disputed and have waited a week with no contact and was told when I called today that they should have a response next week.

Unfortunately, much as we wish, we don’t have very much good news for the writer. Once you’ve initiated a chargeback, the airline will shut down most avenues of discussion. You’ve effectively taken the decision out of the airline’s hands and put it into that of the credit card company. Hopefully, they will be swift in returning your money.

The second option at this point is what you’ve done: Submit your story to a blog, or blogs, or blog about it yourself. Bad publicity may speed up an airline’s response. Of course, they may also ignore it. The Internet and Corporations are fickle that way.

But, what is the best way to approach this type of dispute? We’ve written up a simple guide over at Infrequent Flier on the solid middle road of complaint writing. The whole process is very frustrating as you must move through a hierarchy of personnel, all of which demand time to investigate and render a decision, yet they demanded thousands from you on the spot.

In our followup email with you, you admitted you felt you were calm at the counter, because you didn’t want to be denied boarding as an irate passenger, making the situation worse. We are saddened at the state of affairs in the airline industry, where airlines have the power to deny people boarding, refund people their money, and have no further liability, and that does intimidate people in a conflict. That is probably why travel insurance is a good idea on expensive trips, although they are hardly motivated to give you your money either.

You advised that you had disputed not only the amount of the new ticket, but the original ticket as well, on the advice of the credit card company. That would, if accepted, give you the equivalent of a free trip to France. Knowing how these situations often end, that would be above normal expectations, as the traditional airline offer is to rectify the accounting error and, if you are lucky, a small voucher. While it is possible you will get the two first-class tickets you wish, our experience suggests it is doubtful. The retail value of such is too high for them to offer it to you as compensation.

Our hearts go out to you, and if any reader can think of any advice for the writer of this letter, please do comment below.

Author: Guru

Guru is the Editor of Flight Wisdom and a long time aviation enthusiast.