Saturday, November 14, 2009

No, you don't say no to a customer like me

I have a long battle with Air France about their guide service at Charles De Gaulle Airport. Of course, with a customer like me, they lost the battle. I got what I wanted, from Air France Hong Kong. Well, I still lost to Air France in Nantes though.

The battle starts with:
My aunt is coming to France. Initially I arranged that hubby goes to Paris to pick her up. Since she arrives early in the morning, that means either hubby has to stay overnight in CDG airport if he takes train, or he will have to drive overnight to Paris (round trip 10 hours). I found both solutions are inconvenient to hubby, plus I don't want him to be too far away from me in case the baby decides to arrive early.

I did some research online and I found a better solution:
Guide Service at CDG provides by Air France.
With this service, someone who speaks Mandarin can go pick up my aunt, guide her through immigration and custom, and bring her to the gate where she is going to take a plane to Nantes.A perfect solution that would only cost 88 euros, and she will be taken care of once she touches down in Paris.

Now, the challenge is how to get this service. I practically never call any services here because you need to pay for each call. I sent an email to Air France but after 2 weeks I didn't get any reply. I went to Air France office in Nantes, first they had never heard of this, and when they discovered that my aunt was not taking Air France from Kuala Lumpur to Paris, they immediately refused to serve me. I didn't give up and researched further as I don't think any reasonable person would refuse business. Then only I discovered that the service is listed in Air France Hong Kong website with a phone number. I know with my internet provider FREE, I can call Hong Kong for free and usually in Hong Kong the service line is free. So I called up Air France Hong Kong, they told me it is not possible to provide this service without any reservation. I told them that if I'm not sure they could give me this service I will not make reservation for the Paris - Nantes flight and they will lose business. I insisted that if they give me what I want, they will have my business: Paris-Nantes flight + the 88 euros services. The agent was kind of convinced, she gave me a number to contact the service provider directly in Paris.

Apparently Air France has partnership with an independent agent in Paris for this kind of service. I talked to the person in charge, he said no problem, he will take the order. However, he said I just need to twist a bit my reservation, don't tell Air France that it is for the arrival since my aunt comes with another airlines, just tell them that it is a service to assist my aunt for the departure to Nantes. Since he couldn't take the payment directly, I still need to pay in any Air France counter.

So I went again to Air France Nantes and printed out the website. The assistant was very confused as she has not heard of this service but she can't refuse as it is listed in the website that it was an Air France service. This assistant was actually quite helpful, she called here and there for information. It seemed that nobody knows about it so she called the independent agent in Paris. She got confirmation that I could get this service, and she was told how to handle the payment. Well, it seemed that there were still some procedures she couldn't figure out so she asked me to go home and wait for her call.

Two days later I still get nothing from her. I called the agent in Paris to check if they have received any order from Air France Nantes. No they didn't and they actually had sent all the necessary instructions to Air France Nantes for the payment operation. Well, I decided to call Air France Hong Kong instead. This time she told me to have this service, my aunt needs to take a long haul flight with Air France and Paris-Nantes flight is considered a short distance flight. I reasoned with her that the service provider in Paris has agreed to this service, now just let me pay. She kept asking me to hold on so that she can asked her superior for approval. Eventually she gave me a solution: she would request this service to Paris, if they agree, she will let me pay through Air France Hong Kong.

And I got a call this morning from Hong Kong! The guy called me and spoke to me in Cantonese, saying that the service has been approved, now I just need to pay. It was so weird, for some reason I lost the ability to tell my credit card number in Cantonese, but the guy has been very patient. He nicely explained that I will get a confirmation email once the payment goes through.

And I got the confirmation email 20 minutes later. Such a wonderful service.

My philosophy: If there is a business, they will find you a solution.
Well, this probably only works with Asian mentality, as until now I didn't get any call from Air France Nantes. Anyway the business amount is probably too small for them to even bother about it.


  1. la persévérance rapporte toujours ^^

  2. Glad u got it. Yes it is only an Asian mentality. It's funny how things work here. After 7 yrs here, I'm still not used to it.

  3. No, it is not only an Asian mentality. It is also a USA mentality, as well as the mentality of anyone who believes that good customer service equals additional revenue.

    And bravo to you, Bee Ean, for your determined perseverance!

  4. I really marvel at your determination :) . Kudos to you!