Monday, October 28, 2013

So it isn't just a Friday thing . . .

Rats! I thought I had the formula down. On two or three occasions when I made an international flight reservations on a Friday night, my credit card was initially rejected by Air France. That initial rejection is not that rare, but in every case, my credit card company has said they approved the charge. So the problem with Friday night reservations is that Air France's customer service lines only seem to be open weekdays during business hours and there's no one to talk to to meet any "you must submit payment within 24 hours or you'll have to start over" before the weekend is over.

You'd think Monday would be safe. Or at least easy.

(Not rat.)
(Me, frazzled.)

One thing about my used-to-be-slower Internet (speed is relative -- it's now good but not best) is that you have time to read the messages you're going to have to report to the Tech Guy. But he comes into this situation a little later in the story.

First, I filled in all the credit card information except for the first line (which, in my defense, was invisible), thus leaving out the credit card number. Of course, the error message was at the top of the page and I was at the bottom of the page, so I stared at the lack of progress for a few moments before scrolling up. I filled in the number and pressed the Continue button again.

A little red butterfly flutters across the screen while I wait for credit card approval. It was at this point that a message flashed something about a secret code from my bank and returned to the credit request screen. I waited at the bottom of the page for my secret code. When nothing happened I scrolled up. The form was blank. The red box said "waiting confirmation." Up in that non-prominent box at the very top, the message told me my information wasn't correct.

What? I've gotten messages before that my credit card wasn't approved, but not that my information was incorrect. And when I've talked to the credit card company, it has always that said they had in fact approved the credit.

Tried again. Same result. Tried a third time. I swear, it was all filled out correctly. 

My first phone call was to the Credit Card Company. (Perhaps you recall that I've previously mentioned that I hate telephoning, which is why "online" has been such a boon to me.) Credit Card Lady discovered that Credit Card Company had approved the charge, then Airline had canceled it. She couldn't tell me what they had on their mind.

Next call was to Website Help at the Airline. I'm developing a wee bit of a hearing problem in my telephone ear, so a soft voice, rapid cadence and an accent made understanding Website Guy a little difficult, but he entered my credit card info and pushed it through. He emailed my reservation to me, but . . . it was from Delta? With a whole new Reference Number? I want to be able to use my Air France Reference Number. He assured me he could take care of that. Two emails followed, although neither exactly in the familiar Air France format.

I looked at a short itinerary version. It's a round trip from San Francisco to Marseille via Paris. Then noticed something about the return flight. (I'm omitting dates of travel for ... good reasons.) 

The first leg of the trip from Marseille to Paris goes to Orly Airport? And the leg from Paris to San Francisco leaves from CDG Airport?  No no no no no! I've transferred between Paris airports when there was no choice, but I had carefully noted the Marseille to CDG flights  to make this reservation, and had chosen, had surely chosen, a Marseille to CDG flight.

Back on the phone to Air France Reservations, running through several layers of the menu to get a person who could deal with a none-of-the-above choice. A change in reservation has a $300 price tag. The bus between airports is 20€, but you must collect your luggage and carry it with you between airports, rather than checking it through. Reservations Lady in Tampa had a strong, no accent voice so I could communicate better with her. This is not the flight I had chosen, it has been only a matter of minutes, can you do something for me?

Cut to the chase, she managed to make the change to the flight I wanted. This reservations center handles US reservations for Air France, KLM and Delta. She had to move fast to make the change for the leg in France, or Air France tends to get involved from that end.

The proof was when I could find my reservation on the Air France website all confirmed.

I wasn't even planning to make this reservation today, but there has been a price jump since the end of September and when I discovered today it has been steady for a couple of weeks, I just want to do it.

Time to hang it up for the day.
See you soonish.



  1. Funnily enough I'll be in Marseille soon!

    Here's a handy piece of info: the law is that any reservation you make is fully refundable for 24 hours after you make it. Once, I made it and the next day the fare fell. Easy: cancel and book the new one.

    Also, fares come and go all day long. Something offered in the morning may well disappear within an hour if there is enough consumer activity around it (they track every inquire on the Internet and gauge interest that way).

    One more thing -- my experience is that Delta's reservation system is MUCH easier and smoother to use than AF's. The flights all share codes and it doesn't matter if it's Delta code so long as the aircraft used is Air France. (I presume you prefer the AF planes).

    Finally, when doing your searches, do you check all three -- Delta, AF and KLM? They don't have the same prices and even if they do, one may offer a combination that uses different connections than the other.

    It's not easy fighting for that cheap ticket!

    1. Maybe when you're retired, we'll cross paths in France.
      I must confess to trading money for comfort on my flights these days. When I used an awards ticket a couple of years ago, to my surprise AF put me in Premium Economy and it spoiled me. I stick with AF for its nonstop from SFO to CDG. There are only 24 seats in Premium Economy, so don't want to miss those -- or horrors -- have to sit in the center seats.
      AF has revamped its website and I'm not sure it's better than the old, but it is famiiar navigation for me, which makes it easier to use.

  2. You would think, as often as you fly Air France, there would be a slot with your name on it that identifies you as a preferred guest. US Air is normally my choice, but I have a friend who works for them and growls if I don't use their airline.

    1. To my surprise they recently upgraded my Flying Blue card to one level above the bottom. Mysterious are the ways of counting upgrades, but it does include a certain number of "level flights" as well as pure miles. It works against upgrading my level flights when I look for the most direct route with the fewest plane changes.

    2. Oh absolutely! I look at segments (not miles) very carefully! Living in a small town (meaning -- no direct connections to Europe) gives me segments! It's not terribly hard for me to get 30 per year which, in AF eyes, is gold!

      The downside is that AF gives far fewer miles per flight (than, say, Delta) and also imposes fees and taxes on miles tickets. Still, I stick with AF. I love the quick upward progression.

  3. Humming La Marseillaise to you now... hope this will turn out to be the most aggravating part of the trip!

    1. Thanks! It often is the most taxing thing. (Gee, literally as well as figuratively.) Of course, une petite grève can throw a monkey wrench into the machinery