Monday, May 11, 2009

Flying The (Not So) Friendly Skies


Back when I was planning my trip to Paris, I had the choice of deciding between taking American Airlines or Air France. Both airlines had identical flight times, flight paths, and ticket price. Both airlines had planes landing at Charles De Gaulle airport at the same exact time, too. So my initial choice was going to be American Airlines. Not out of any sense of patriotism, mind you, but rather because I was more familiar with AA. It's one of those "old reliables" -- you know, clunky and ugly on the outside, yet dependable and familiar nonetheless.

But, due to a one-day hesitation on my part as I ironed out a few last minute details with our itinerary, suddenly the price for the AA ticket jumped $100 over night. So that left me with Air France as my only option.

And boy, the two airlines could not be any more different! (Check out the pic above which depicts a typical Air France cabin). Flying AA just this past weekend to San Diego really hit home how shitty our domestic airline companies have become. To be honest, I'm a bit pissed off about this.

Let me break it down for you:

American Airlines charges you for everything! First out of the gate, they charge you $15 per checked bag. You hear me? 15 fucking dollars for EACH bag you are checking in! Regardless of size, weight, or number of bags. Secondly, they charge you for all meals. $10 per item seems to be the going rate. And it's not like they're serving you a full course meal, either. Nope. That's $10 for basically a sandwich and nothing else. Want chips? That's an extra $3! Water, juice, and soda are free, though. But if you want wine or beer, that's $6 a pop! So to have a sandwich, chips, and a Heineken will set you back nearly $20!!!!

Keep in mind that the planes in AA's fleet are old and decrepit, smell like farts, and have no amenities like tvs behind every chair or even much leg room. Also, the FA's look like old hags. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but they do. Might seem like a trivial aspect, but try sitting in a cramped seat that smells vaguely like a plumber's ass crack for 7 hours and having to look up at Mrs. Hagglesnout every 5 minutes as she stumbles down the aisle asking you to please buckle your seatbelt. It gets to you.

By contrast, Air France could not be any more the polar opposite. For starters, no checked baggage fees. Even for a fairly heavy suitcase (like the one Lisa packed) -- still no fee! Going out, the plane was almost brand spanking new! The one on the flight back was older, but perhaps no more than 5 or 7 years tops. And on both flights each seat had it's own, small, flat screen display by which passengers could individually choose their form of entertainment. You could pick to play a game (like blackjack, checkers, or Who Wants To Be A Millionaire), listen to music, or watch up to 30 premium movie selections. No joke, there were movies like Casino Royale and National Treasure 2 on the menu! You also got complimentary earphones and face mask (for blocking out the light while you slept), too!

Other differences from American Airlines? The seats were cleaner, the aisles wider, and the FA's a whole lot nicer to look at. One or two of them were even model quality! Again, a trivial point, but trust me . . . it makes the flight more bearable. :)

More importantly, however, Air France feeds you a veritable feast -- and all for NO EXTRA COST! Yup, you heard right! You get a full 4-course meal plus two snacks on your flight to and from France, and it costs you no more than the purchase of your ticket. WTF? It was so bad that I had to TURN AWAY food, that's how much they fed us on our flights. And I'm not talking about crummy airplane food, either. This stuff tasted like it came right out of the restaurant! I remember getting risotto for the entree (plus a cold anti-pasta which was simply divine), beef in Burgundy sauce with rotinni pasta as the main course, real French cheese and baguette for the after course, and then both a yummy apple tart AND yogurt, along with some fruit juice on the side. To top it all off, I was offered my choice of drink, including red or white wine. I chose red, and got a cup and a whole (small) bottle of wine all to myself. The bottle was enough to fill my cup two and a half times. Lovely! And all for the price of nothing. Can you believe that?

In addition to the main meal, twice during the flight we were offered a refreshment. The first offering was immediately after takeoff, and consisted of the usual pretzels/crackers and light beverage. The second, served about an hour before landing (and which I refused because I was already stuffed from that large dinner), consisted of a danish and other assorted pastries, yogurt, cup of jello, and fruit juice. No, I'm not exaggerating. And, again, all for no extra cost.

Now keep in mind, the price of flying either airline was about the same. And, as I mentioned, at one point the Air France ticket cost a lot less!

So, I have to ask: WTF gives? Why is American Airlines charging its passengers out the ass for things that are free on other airlines? Moreover, how do they have the audacity to do this while not even updating their aged fleet? I swear, I want to strangle myself for boredom on most AA flights. But on Air France, I was too occupied and well-fed to even notice the long flight.

It's so ironic, actually, because initially I thought I was slumming it up choosing AF over AA. I was sure I was going to get a sub-standard plane, rude FA's, and cramped seating conditions. Don't know what gave me that impression, but it turns out I must have been thinking about AA. Well, correction, the FA's on almost any airline are for the most part decent. Sure, some of them have been flying since airplanes were called pterodactyls . . . but even the old bitties on AA were actually pretty nice and attentive. Not their fault that the company they work for is a greedy vampire grown fat on the blood and sweat of hard-working Americans. Hmph! "American" Airlines indeed. Tell me, how American is this?

Well, very, given recent economic revelations I guess . . .

9 comments:

Kim Kasch said...

I love European airlines. We fly KLM and they are great.

Ashe Hunt said...

Yeah, I instantly stopped being impressed with american airline companies a long time ago. But what really sealed it was when I flew Air Korea to and from Hawaii. That was the best flight I ever took in my life, besides my very first one when I was still a child, and that Hawaii flight was LONG!! And I flew from and to South Korea. Good food, good entertainment, no EXTRA COST! Greedy ass americans use all the money the company makes to pay outrageous salaries to the executives of the companies. The country is now paying the price for unchecked commercialism. Nowhere is this more apparent than the american airline industry. Well, maybe the american automobile industry as well, but I'm sayin'; our airlines SUCK!!!

Ashe Hunt said...

I want to fly to France just to ride in one of their planes now. Good post!

cindy said...

it's truly a travesty. i noticed the same going to london on air new zeland (old plane but awesome service) and coming back on united (old plane and bad service).

how can american airlines hope to compete when they are lagging so far in simple comforts?

asian airlines are better than european ones. BUT the best (so travel magazines say) are saudi flights.

David Batista said...

Hmm, guess I'm going to have to visit the Middle East. And, yeah, I heard Asian airlines are really good. Tarrell just confirmed it with Korean Air above.

When we were leaving SD this weekend, I noticed a China Airlines plane taxied next to us. I so wanted to hop planes! :)

Anonymous said...

I just came from Paris by air France and it is all true, the service, the foods, the enterteinment, the schedule, everything was just amazing, american airlines is just HORRIBLE

David Batista said...

Anonymous -- thank you! Thanks for confirming my experience. I've been on Air France a few more times since writing this blog post, and they haven't let me down yet! They're truly awesome.

debbie vitek said...

my husband, 12 year old daughter and i will be travelling air france in march 2013.... after reading this blog we are greatful for choosing this air line.

David Batista said...

Debbie, March is when we typically fly to France as well. So I think I can safely say that you will enjoy your flight and visit to France. If you remember to do so, please come back here and tell us of your experience.

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