AirFrance *really* hates IKEA

TL;DR: AirFrance prefers you to use Louis Vuitton bags, not IKEA.

I went on vacation to France, booked tickets through Alaska airlines on Delta One there and back. The plan was to relax in a nice business class seat, then rent a car in Paris and drive around France and take lots of pictures!

Unfortunately, in the middle of our rental, in Montpellier, our rental car was looted, and all our bags were stolen. That’s sad but manageable — after all, that’s what insurance is for. But we didn’t want to go all fancy on the vacation and spend $$$$ on new Louis Vuitton bags, we just went to the nearest IKEA and got ourselves cheap but good IKEA FRAKTA bags, like these:

After all, it’s just so we can finish our journey and get back home. IKEA claims those bags can handle up to 100 kilos and I trust them. So far so good!

Fast forward to September 19, the day of our departure from Paris. I knew there were something wrong with my ticket since I couldn’t check in via FlyDelta app. We didn’t have problems checking in in Seattle and the agent in Seattle was very friendly and quick and checked us in instantly. I thought the issue was related to our service animals, as it usually is, and didn’t worry about it too much — we have all our vaccination papers in order and can go through any verification process.

Still we decided to arrive 3 hours before the flight departure time. I was really looking forward to our flight back because it was supposed to be in the newer cabin!

AirFrance check in desks in CDG are a huge mess. There are several of them, located quite far from one another, SkyPriority is a whole separate isle and it’s not indicated at the tableau! Departure display just shows the regular check in desk and that’s confusing.

Anyway, we made it to Sky Priority check in. And it was terribly long line. And painfully slow. I’m not really sure that going through SkyPriority was a good idea at all. I think I should’ve gone through the regular check in which smaller and less busy but I’ll never know now. All in all, we spent good 40 minutes standing in the line and answering some US-specific questions. I really started to worry about our cut-off time! So if you have in plans to go to CDG, try to arrive 4–5 hours prior to departure, line could easily be longer and slower.

The beginning of our issues was one old black lady in red jacket manning the line. I didn’t get her name since apparently, agents in CDG refuse to introduce themselves and show their IDs to the point the deliberately hide their ID cards in the pockets. She approached us and pointed to our IKEA bags and said we can’t fly with these. No explanation, no solution, no help, she didn’t offer us to go to the wrapping station first, she didn’t listen to our arguments that we lost our bags. Just point blank NO. And she also threatened us: “You’ll see that you’re not flying today!” Apparently, she went around all check in stands in the SkyPriority and warn every agent not to accept our bags — just because she didn’t like them.

Like, seriously. IKEA bags can withstand quite the pressure. I trust them. I like them. After all, airlines have plastic bags to help customers ensure safe delivery. So we didn’t think much of it and went ahead to check in.

The funny part was that when I tried to film our interaction she called a “security” guy who screamed at me and threatened to break my phone if I don’t quit filming him. Really. That’s how they like publicity in CDG!

Well, it’s our turns at check in desk and our bags aren’t the problem at all! AirFrance just simply lost my tickets. They had my reservation but it didn’t have proper e-ticket number. Delta in Seattle had no issues finding proper e-ticket but apparently, AirFrance doesn’t know how to find a ticket by person’t last name. Really, the check in agents told me that I don’t have ticket and I need to go to the ticket counter. That’s seriously happened.

I showed them email from Alaska which had all necessary information (including proper e-ticket number!) but agents didn’t pay attention to the email. They didn’t speak good English and couldn’t explain what they need (they kept saying “you don’t have a ticket”, not “we can’t find your new E-ticket number”, I would’ve at least understood the problem and showed it to them). And then again, wonderful French service: nobody cares, nobody wants to help us and explain what’s wrong. Just go somewhere away, we don’t know what you do and we don’t want to help you. You’re on your own.

Why computer system in Delta in Seattle is so much more advanced that AirFriance’s in CDG?

Guy at the ticketing couldn’t do anything for us and just told me to call Alaska. Luckily, he allowed me to use his phone and in the meantime he properly mentioned words “e-ticket number”. I found the new e-ticket number in that email that I showed everyone! And yes, it was the right one. Ticketing desk guy said these tickets were good and we’re ok to go back to the check in.

All this with the old black lady in red jacket with security standing behind our backs and screaming that we cannot film them and they will break our phones if we won’t stop doing that. Really.

Well, this all conundrum takes lots of time. We were cutting really close! We rushed back to the check in desk. The previous agents were busy, so we asked nearby ones for help. We asked them to go talk to the previous agents to figure out our situation (they were mere a meter away) but looks like the new agents weren’t happy about that.

Finally! We had our boarding passes. Woo-hoo! But black woman in red dress showed up again and demanded from agents not to take our bags. We tried our best, tried to reason with agents, tried to ask for the plastic bag. No dice.

This is Delta’s policy,” they say. Seriously? Delta has a policy against IDEA bags?

You have to find a solution.” We’re passengers, it’s your job to help us!

You have 3 more minutes to find the solution or the flight will be closed.” And what about sending our bags through a different route or even tomorrow?

You should go and buy new luggage.” In CDG? In 3 minutes? Where do they even sell luggage in CDG???

Our plastic bags are for strollers only,” one agent says. “Our plastic bags are for backpacks only,” the other one contradicts. They don’t even know what they are for. And do I need to say they used these plastic bags for other items already?

You can go and wrap your bags in plastic at the wrapping station” — but I’m trying to tell them it’s against TSA rules and our bags will be cut open if we do that! It’s against the rules, I know that for sure. “Well, we offered you a solution, you have to find one yourself”.

I couldn’t believe they were referring to some obscure “Delta policies” tried to make them show it in printing but they just said “this is what I’m telling you, that’s the policy”.

And then it gets weirder. Bag commander in chief shows up and starts explaining why our bags are inferior. The in the check stand next to us has a similar bag but his bag is apparently better (more expensive, I guess?). At this point it get ridiculous and I’m starting to loose any hope:

Finally, we agree to go to the wrapping station and wrap our bags in plastic. Here’s the manager promising us to take our bags after we wrap them in plastic, even though the official deadline for bag drop has passed. She clearly promises to take our bags:

Well, surprise-surprise! After paying 30 euros for wrapping our bags, we were surrounded by those “security” guys who were demanding to remove all video footage from my phone. Yes, all videos or else they won’t let us fly today. This come to that ridiculous point.

I complied. I removed all videos and they still threw us out. The supervisor showed up and just plainly said: “You’re not flying with us today.” The flight is closed, bags are not going to be accepted and that’s the end of it.

Here comes black woman in red jacket — she makes a dive for my boarding passes trying to tear them out of my hands. Really. She tried to take my boarding passes out of my hands. What an amazing servie.

Their final words were: “You don’t have a ticket anymore. You’re not flying with us today.

Just effing great.

I tried to ask for their names. Nobody has their names on their badges — in US you usually have name of the person showed on their chest, here they have badge hanging very low, it’s impossible to read them from far away and they hide it in their pocket when you’re trying to read that! What’s up with these people being all secretive and shady?

So I tried to sneak a photo of one on them and — guess what — “security” guys surround me, arrest me and take to the Police Nationale office. For taking pictures of them. They arrested me. Really. I was on the landside area, not in secure zone, I didn’t try to take picture of something secure, just a photo of a woman who treated me badly — and they arrested me!

That was just horrible. It was the worst hour of my time. We spent waiting for the police officers to become available but unfortunately the policemen didn’t think this issue was pressing and just made us wait. I was playing with the idea to demand a lawyer and a consulate.

Well, the end was simple: I gave up. I let them (the commander-in-chief and “security” guys) search through my phone, check all my messages and contacts and delete all videos that I had. That was extremely humiliating.

Commander-in-chief agreed to let me go only if I leave their terminal completely and will never return. That was her demands. And supervisor was there and OKed all this treatment of me and I really cannot understand how they could do this.

This is just wrong.

Well, Delta’s customer support was amazing. I called them around 9:32 Paris time and agent Tim carefully listened to me and looked into my reservation. He then told me he couldn’t do anything with it because it was “Alaska’s reservation” and I need to call Alaska. There was nothing he could do. He couldn’t explain Delta policies about bags. He couldn’t call AF and talk to them. He couldn’t reroute the bags or deliver them one day later. Just “call Alaska.”

Of course, I wanted to leave him a not-so-positive review so I waited for him to hang up. Instead, he waited for me to hand up. I could hear him breathing. And then — this is the genius part — he just TRANSFERRED ME TO ENTERPRISE RENTAL CARS! That’s just genius! It was such a smart move that I couldn’t speak for a minute. Amazing. No wonder why Delta thinks they are the best in customer service — because it’s Enterprise who receives all complaints. Just awesome!

Alaska’s customer support was the greatest here. The agent was quick to console me and to find an acceptable alternative that I happily accepted. She even refunded me some of the miles back. I love Alaska!

My takeaway is this: there’s a reason why US airlines (and Alaska in particular) are biggest and best in the world. Because they care about you. Sometimes, somewhere, but at least they make an effort. Because I can feel safe travelling around the country and world with them. AirFrance, on the other hand, doesn’t want your business, they just simply don’t care about it.

And don’t fly with IKEA. We lost our $8500 seats because of IKEA bags.

P.S. Of course, I was right about TSA. Of course it was suspicious. Of course they just cut them open. All wrapping plastic was cut loose. And of course IKEA was the best choice: bags survived through 2 flights and a long layover. Of course I was right and they were wrong:

Here’s the rest of the videos about our conversations where we’re trying to get agents to help us and give us our bags.

In this video agents prints boarding passes for us and we explain that our luggage was stolen and we just use them to get back and the agents don’t care:

Here they tell me to find “solution”:

And here they are talking about “Delta rules” but never show them (commander-in-chief is at the end):

What do you think?