Air France Sucks|
Up until now there were no direct flights from Europe or America to Guangzhou airport so in the past I would have to fly to Hong Kong but in January Air france was the first non-Asian airline to fly to Guangzhou so I flew with them. (Lufthansa soon followed suit.)
The luggage allowance is a ridiculous 23 kg (50 lbs) plus, I believe, 15 kg for hand luggage which they also weigh, and on my return flight I had 9 kg (20 lbs) excess. They wanted to charge me 300 Yuan per kilo (30 euro/kg, US$16.50/lb) which is clearly ridiculous. There is no reasonable basis for this and it is just an extortion when you have no other choice than pay. . . or not fly. There was no time to repack. In Guangzhou Baiyun airport you check your luggage after going through security so my friend could not be there and I could not give her a piece of luggage to take back. I was stuck. I did not have the money to pay what they were asking and the luggage was not worth that much anyway. But there was no time to do anything but pay. I pleaded but local Air France personnel informed me, quite rudely, that my options were to eaither (a) pay, (b) dump a piece of luggage or (c) not fly (which meant losing my ticket) and I had to decide *fast*. I just did not dare dump a piece of luggage because I was not sure what important thing or document might be in there. I did not have the money to pay and I don't know that I would pay if I had it. And staying behind and losing my ticket was not appealing either. I had eaten enough noodles already and the thought of having to eat any more was enough to make me sick.
I was frantic. I was desperate. They would not allow me to pay when I had arrived. I had to pay *before* I flew. They were pushing me to decide. It was an awful experience. Air France has contracted their own staff in China and, I suppose, has trained them to French standards of rudeness. Nothing less will do.
The insisted I had to make up my mind. Which is like asking someone if they would prefer the bullet in the head or the heart. I said I could not pay and I could not voluntarily dump my luggage or not board the plane.
The woman asked me how much money I had on me. I mean, the kind of thing you expect from sellers at an outdoor market. I pulled out my last Chinese bills without even counting them and she took them and let me fly (she did later give me an official Air France receipt). It was only a fraction of what they were asking and I felt grateful for an instant until I thought they had only extorted out of me less money than they wanted and the whole thing was their fault.
The luggage allowance in Europe is just ridiculously low and should be raised to at least 32 kg. which is half the American allowance. Secondly, excess luggage should be charged at a reasonable and justifiable fee and not at a rate which is plainly an extortion of money from a passenger who finds he has no other choice but pay. If the average passenger and his luggage allowance weigh 100 kg then a rate of 1% of the airfare per kilo is reasonable. A rate which means it costs more for 20 kg of excess than for a passenger ticket with 35 kg of free luggage allowance is plainly ridiculous.
The airplane was about 20% full and it seems Air France personnel want to keep it that way. Passengers are just too much of a hassle for them. One thing is for sure: It is going to be a very long time before I fly with Air France again.