It's incredible that I encountered two problems with Air France in one single month! My impression of France now is already bad even before I visited the country!
If you remember, Air France lost my luggage for a week because of labor strike in Paris in the beginning of October. This time as I was coming back from Algiers, they screwed up again! The French are simply marvellous at screwing up!
There I was on my return trip, with Sakai, sitting comfortably on ME212 (coach share with AF), waiting for take off, when they ordered all passenger to disembark. Fortunately or unfortunately, when alighting, we met Hisham, a colleague working for our Moroccan distributor, on his way to Beirut. Sham told us that when the ground crew was retracting the boarding stairs from the plane, the machinery sliced through the door of the plane and badly damaged the door.
So we were stuck in Charles de Gaulle airport while the ground crew tried to repair the plane. Turned out, the spare part they need can only be found in Hamburg and it is not likely for the part to arrive in such a short time. Incredible! Airbus has no spare parts in France? Seems like all the passengers will be stuck in Paris for a while because there wasn't a way for the repair to be done so quickly.
After two hours, AF staff finally hatched a plan. They would book accomodations in a transit hotel and put us up for the night and arrange us to fly on the first available flight to Beirut the next morning. So after being stucked in the terminal for 5 hours past our schedule flight, we could finally leave the airport and go to the transit hotel. But we couldn't leave Sham behind. Being a Morrocan, Sham needs a visa to enter Paris and so we stayed back in the terminal with him.
It was the beginning of the long wait with Sham and some of the other passengers who had their passports detained to apply for their temporary visa. We watched as the AF staff, who were dispatched to handle us, disappear one by one. The promised 1 hour wait stretched to 3 hours. By then, we decided to check on the visa application status with the AF booth outside the terminal. Guess what? They have no clue about Sham and the other passengers without visa. Sakai mentioned that this could be real-life event of The Terminal in the making but fortunately, Sham didn't watch the movie. The new AF staff only followed-up on the visa application status when one of the Lebanese "aunties" and Sham started to complain loudly. I guess there was no proper handover of the issue because after the complaint, the AF staff were able to come up with their passports and a collective visa. Finally, it was okay for us to leave for the transit hotel at about 10 pm after such a long ordeal at the airport.
There were approximately 90 people from our delayed flight scheduled for the next day 9pm morning flight to Beirut. There were approximately 90 people who didn't brush their teeth and change their clothes that morning...
After such a bad experience with Air France (twice for me!), we didn't have much to expect from them other than just get us where we want to go safely. As usual, almost on cue, our new flight was delayed for an hour because the cabin crew couldn't ascertain the correct number of people on the flight and they kept counting and counting from back to front and front to back. Amazing!
When we were stuck in the airport, the three of us started to play a little game called, Renaming Air France. The objective of the game is to come up with the best definition for the acronym AF. Sakai won the game with a new acronym for Air France..... AF - Always Frustrating!