A lot of people say that the French don't deserve to be picked on, ridiculed and insulted. A lot of people say that bashing the French is an infantile nationalistic passtime perpetuated by right-wing ultra-conservatives to shift attention away from other things. These people are either stupid, French, or have never dealt with the French.
I've sat outside at a cafe on the French Riviera and seen a woman trying to get the attention of a waiter wiping down the table next to her, saying, "Excuse me?" over and over until her husband leaned in and whispered to her, prompting her to say, "Pardon?" in something resembling the French pronunciation, which of course instantly elicited a response from the waiter (in perfect english), "Yes, Madame, what can I do for you?"
I've witness and experienced first-hand dozens of incidents of French nationalism, which somehow eclipses any known nationalism save perhaps North Korea's despite not really having anything to proud of — certainly not anything above and beyond many other nations who are far more humble about themselves.
Of course there is also the corrupt political scheming, such as France's apparent violation of the arms embargo against Iraq between 1991 and 2003, as well as the under-the-table deals France's largest oil company made with Saddam, the constant pressure from France to lift the trade embargoes against Iraq and the looting of the Oil-For-Food program to make a few million while the embargo was still in place.
But I'm not here to discuss that either. I have come across an entirely new example that absolutely personifies how much the French suck, and how subtly they can do it: Air France.
Anyone who travels a lot is probably familiar with the sort of brotherhood that exists between airlines. When a flight is delayed or canceled and depending on your ticket-type even if you miss a flight they might be able to pop you onto the next flight out, even if it's a different airline.
Similarly, many of the airlines have deals that will allow them to accept each others frequent-flyer miles. This works out great for passengers, who have more flexibility, and for the airlines themselves because they run a tight ship as it is and the policy spreads the wealth around a little bit as well as giving them some breathing room so they don't have to try to please everyone all the time by having the exact right flight and schedule.
Well, there is an interesting game anyone going to Europe can play. Use your frequent-flyer miles from an airline partnered with Air France to get tickets on an Air France flight, then use your record locater / reservation number to reserve yourself a nice seat, perhaps a window seat or maybe even in an emergency exit row for the extra legroom.
Next, if you check your reservation it will say, "On Hold" — wait a few minutes until the system is sure you didn't request the same seat at the same exact time as someone else and you will see your seats are now "Confirmed". Now comes the fun part: Wait until a couple of days before the flight and check again. If your seats were good enough, and if the flight is at least half full, they'll be gone!
That's right! Air France personnel booking tickets for (predominantly French) customers that want a window seat (or any other seat, for that matter) will, if finding none available, go through the flight manifest and boot any travelers from partner airlines out of their seats. And the best part? No one will tell you your seats are gone, you just have to figure it out for yourself and hope you find out before the plane is so full that you're forced to sit apart from your traveling companions.
I travel a lot and I must say this is an entirely new practice to me. I've seen airlines overbook their planes (and offer customers incentives to voluntarily take the next flight) and I've seen passengers have their seating moved around on small planes (to evenly distribute weight for takeoff and landing) but I have never seen an airline boot a customer out of a confirmed/reserved seat because they originated from a partner airline.
Most disturbing is that this didn't even happen to me. This happened to at least 7 different people who know me on multiple occasions, two of which I verified personally, and I don't doubt it's happened to hundreds of others. Air France isn't terribly circumspect about it and they are entirely unapologetic on the matter. Their opinion is apparently that if you didn't book through them directly then you don't really deserve to ride in their plane anyway.
God love the French. No one else can.
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