There’s plenty to kvetch about when it comes to flying. Every time I book a flight, I continue to look at the arrival and departure times as merely suggestions–a rough idea. I plan to be late. I plan for problems. In generally, I am pleasantly surprised and achieve a warm glowing feeling when flights land on time. In all the times I’ve flown, I’ve never lost baggage. Baggage has never been my gripe.
In general, my horror tales of flights that have gone awry are few. The ones I do have remind me about how I like to be treated. This summer’s trip on Air France from Venice to Detroit via Paris reminded me of what an airline should do to keep passengers pleased and coming back when problems occur. If what I experienced is any indication of how Air France usually treats customers, I’d say the airline’s customer service is one area where the airline works well–even when the airplanes have issues.
If other airlines consistently followed these tips I noted, flying would be more pleasant for everyone, including the staff.
Tip 1: Go above and beyond whenever possible: Although, the customer service person for Air France was not able to switch my 16-year-old daughter’s flight from KLM to Air France so that she could be on the same flight with my 7-year-old-son and me, the agent offered to check my daughter in on the KLM flight as she helped me navigate Air France’s check-in system.
The agent’s extra effort helped make all of us feel less anxious about my daughter’s first foray into flying by herself, particularly since her connecting flight was through Amsterdam. Because of the agent’s extra effort, my daughter, son and I were able to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, a smooth transition through security, and time to find my daughter’s gate before my son and I took off. Good for you, Air France.
Tip 2: Tell passengers right away if there is a problem with the plane and what will happen next: As our flight was to board, a mechanical problem with the plane was discovered. Air France announced over the Charles de Gaulle International Airport’s speaker system that boarding was being halted due to an aircraft issue and that we would find out more details as possible. In the meantime, we would be taken care of. We were also told that seat assignments would stay the same and that we would probably be changing gates. We were to stay at the gate where we were because that is where information would be given to us.
This set the tone that even though we would be delayed, the problem would be rectified as quickly as possible. It also gave us a job to do. Stay tuned for more information and stay where we are.
Tip 3: When there’s a problem, make amends with food. Once it was determined we’d be at the airport longer than expected, Air France gave all passengers a choice of one of three or four types of sandwiches and a choice of a can of soda or a bottle of water. The food was brought to us.
Tip 4: Give out phone cards if needed. One of the Air France agents gave me a phone card so I could call my husband so he could call my daughter when she landed in Detroit to tell her not wait for us. We were to meet up in Detroit to fly to Columbus on the same Delta flight. Originally, my son and I would have arrived in Detroit before her and had planned to wait for her at her gate. I was concerned that my daughter wouldn’t know what to do next and miss the Delta flight herself.
Because my concern was taken seriously, I was able to relax for the rest of the trip.
Tip 5: If the passenger is having problems using the phone card, help. Gladly. When using a phone in France, the recorded messages are in French. The phone call I tried to make to my husband wouldn’t go through. Because I couldn’t understand the message, I had no idea why not. An agent stepped from behind the desk, went to the pay phone with me, tried to use the card, found out what the message said and helped me rectify the problem which required finding out another access number. It’s complicated. The point is, the agent offered help and didn’t let me become more frustrated. Eventually, I was able to make the call I needed.
Tip 6: When the in-flight entertainment stops working properly mid-flight, apologize and do your best: The in-flight entertainment stopped working when I was in the middle of watching “I Love You Man.” There was an announcement that the crew was aware that the in-flight entertainment system had stopped working and that they were trying to fix it. In the meantime, we should please be patient. Part of the extensive system was fixed in a few minutes. The entire system was fixed in about 20.
Tip 7: Offer food that’s more than just palatable. The meals were terrific. There’s not much else to say about this tip. We all know good food when we see it and taste it. Rich Moffit who snapped the food picture echoed my sentiment with his photo labeled: “This is why you fly Air France.”
Tip 8: At the end of the flight, thank passengers for the flight and again apologize for the problems along the way: When we landed, the pilot again apologized for the delay and thanked us for our understanding. The smiling flight attendants did the same.
I smiled back and said, “Thank you for your efforts to get us here safely and for making the flight pleasant.”
**My daughter’s solo flight went swimmingly well. She did receive the phone call from her dad and knew just what to do. Thanks, Air France.