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Most horrible experience that I can never forget
Nov 23, 2009 12:35 AM 13774 Views
(Updated Nov 23, 2009 12:52 AM)

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I must first apologize before writing anything about this airliner. Because it is late. Almost 18 months late. I am responding late, because I am not very IT savvy and not aware of a forum where I can share my experience, to save others from such consequences. I travel minimum four to five times a year on short trips to US for various business activities.

And I travel most aggressively with in United States, as long as I stay there. I travelled almost all transatlantic airlines including Lufthansa, KLM, British Airways, Air India, Emirates, Northwest from India. Flying by Air France was purely my fault. For once, I thought I should once use online booking to check cheapest fares and avoid going thru the travel agent. That is how, I found Air France. Booking in Air France from Bangalore to Atlanta is the worst thing I have ever done. I wish to narrate the actual experience.

On my return to Bangalore from Atlanta, our flight to Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport was delayed exactly for 7 (Seven) minutes. It is absolutely negligible for all practical purposes. I had presence of mind to inform the in-flight crew that, we have only 75 minutes to change planes and requested for all Indians flying to Bangalore to be shifted in separate vehicle instead of using the regular bus. After multiple requests for confirmation of such option, in-flight crew confirmed that, we will be assisted to change flights without any problem. When we landed, we had no such facility. We had to get into the bus along with other travelers. We have to catch our connecting flight from terminal one. It is an atrocious experience to find that, driver of the bus gets down after driving from terminal four to three and gets out declaring that his shift is over. We have to wait for more than 10 minutes for other driver. And when we reached terminal one, despite of request to the security staff that, we are getting delayed, they had no mercy in expediting clearing our security procedure. Worst thing is that, other western passport holders who are flying in the same flight had different treatment to get cleared security procedures immediately. Finally, when we reached the gate, we are denied boarding. Simple reason, we are late and gate will be closed 30 minutes before. No arguments and discussions are entertained.

We are eight Indians. Among us we had one elderly lady who was 68 year old. We desperately wanted some help. One staff member of Air France walks to us with lot of commitment to help us. She offers us to resolve the issue in the Air France customer support. She manages to take us out of international terminal one to outside customer support center with promise to organize transit visa and a lounge to stay. Despite of the fact that, we all had feel of being cheated and frustrated with the way things were happening, we blindly walked behind the staff member who offered “Help”. When we reached counter and waited in the queue for more than hour, customer center offered us boarding pass for next day flight and denied to offer support to get transit visa. We were asked to follow security personal who were asked to show us a place to stay for next 24 hours. Security personal make us walk for close to a kilometer. We were left  in one of the old terminals (which is not operational either for domestic or international flights). We were all with very little hand baggage without necessary clothing to resist cold temperature. It is middle of February. Unlike terminal one that had carpet, place where we stayed had granite flooring and no heating. Eight of us, without having a clue how to spend next 24 hours without even having proper lighting, food and drinking water from the wash basin in the rest room had to keep praying God. I am the only guy to have international roaming. Everybody was dependent on me to inform their families back home. Frustration was so much that I was continuously calling Air France customer care India and US and my friends to find out if I can get in touch with Indian Consulate. Nothing helped us to get minimum possible support. Air France did not even treated us like dogs. Insult is that every hour cops with Sniffer dogs come to check our documents, open our baggage and dogs sniff all our belongings. We have to answer the cops why we have to stay in that terminal. They treated us like illegal immigrants from Somalia or Congo.

This was truly and clearly a racial abuse. No other westerner, who also missed the flight was subjected to this harassment. I really wanted to fight. Next day, I have given written complaint to Airport Authorities. I demanded acknowledgement. I made all the eight of us to sign the strong protest letter with the addresses. I got the acknowledgement of my written complaint. When we landed in Bangalore Airport, our baggage never made it. We got our baggage after three days.

My nightmare was still not over. I have used all my contacts to reach media. I personally met reporters of Times of India and Deccan Herald so that I can bring coverage to such inhuman and racial practices. I was shocked when Times of India reporter told me that, they will not publish our experience despite of producing the acknowledgement of our complaint to Air France and statement from eight of us. Reason, they lose heavy advertisement revenue. It is an eye opener to see how rude and money minded so called responsible media and press. Whatever I read about spineless Indian Media during Emergency period, I could understand there is no exaggeration. I have not forgotten till date the worst nightmare of my life time. We are not only racially discriminated, abused, harassed but we are denied justice from our own Indian Government and media. I completely stopped flying any European airliners from that day.

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