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Air France Overbooking and Children

Newcastle, UK
Level Contributor
3 posts
3 reviews
Air France Overbooking and Children

Just a note to share my partners experience travelling with our 8 month old baby. Long nightmarish story cut short, she was refused boarding because of overbooking. Despite checking in 2 hours early for her flight from CDG, carrying only the baby and hand luggage.

The person behind her checked onto the same flight but as he had a priorty club card he was allowed onto the flight.

The excuse for this, apparently you need to check in online to secure a space, but as she was travelling with the baby the systems wont allow her to check in online, meaning this is potentially a major problem for anyone travelling with children.

The staff were shocking, rude and the hovel she was bussed to could barely pass as a hostel let alone a hotel. The baby had no nappies, milk or food (as she only had hand luggage and enough to cover a short-medium delay) All in all the entire experience took more than 5 hours until she was at the hotel which had no cot, no sheets and broken AC meaning the temp was 30 C with no way to cool the room down. An extremely exhausted, overheated (and poorly as a result) baby and a terrified young mother who was ignored by the AF staff, or sent on wild goose chases running across the airport to the boarding gate to then be told there was never a space and she should never have been sent there.

How can any airline allow a young mother travelling alone with such a young baby to go through such an ordeal.

I would urge anyone considering travelling with Children to Disney this summer to seriously consider which airline they choose.

After complaining again to the desk, the clerk admitted that this is a problem that happens very regularly because priority is always given to people who check in online, and ALL flights are overbooked.

The entire experience wouldn't have been so bad had the staff offered even a quantum of compassion, a reasonable, safe hotel with a cot for the baby and did what they could to ensure the comfort of mother and baby to reduce the distress caused by their own ridiculous policy.

Level Contributor
47,876 posts
91 reviews
1. Re: Air France Overbooking and Children

Sounds like a good reason not to use AF, though FWIW 2 hours isn't especially early, generally 3 hours is the normal recommendation for long haul.

People often ask 'do i really need to be at the airport a whole 3 hours before?' and this is yet another reason why, to get there ahead of some other poor unfortunate who will be bumped instead of you.

Fredericia, Denmark
Destination Expert
for Bentota, Beruwala, Sri Lanka
Level Contributor
37,514 posts
7 reviews
2. Re: Air France Overbooking and Children

Flying from where to where?

Leyland, United...
Destination Expert
for Playa Blanca
Level Contributor
24,983 posts
44 reviews
3. Re: Air France Overbooking and Children

OP said flight was from CDG. so presumably back to NCL?

All airlines overbook flights, and online check in is a way to show your intent to travel. Not being able to check in online only affects people with under 2s' that haven't had a seat booked for them, so not correct to say "potentially a major problem for anyone travelling with children". When you can't check in online best to turn up early for check in.

Newcastle, UK
Level Contributor
3 posts
3 reviews
4. Re: Air France Overbooking and Children

Yes Paris cdg to Newcastle ,

Re under 2's I didn't realise online check in was available to over 2's but still a major issue.

Checked in 2 hours prior. The booking for said we should check in 1 hour before so it's still early as far as I'm concerned.

The clerk on the desk said all the seats had gone to online check in anyway so we could have arrived 5 hours early and it wouldn't have made a difference.

Why don't they keep seats available for people with infants if you can't check them in online?

Edited: 7:53 am, April 22, 2013
Edinburgh, United...
Level Contributor
9,547 posts
17 reviews
5. Re: Air France Overbooking and Children

Since she was denied boarding she will be entitled to cash compensation under EU regulations. Denied boarding compensation is one of the things airlines usually pay out without too much objection (since it's usually open-and-shut).The "no-cot and broken AC" problem was something I would have taken up with the hotel at the time (perhaps she did). Taking only (or close to) the bare minimum essentials is a bad idea . Aside from overbooking, many other problems could have caused a long delay.

I agree that it sounds like a poor policy by AF. I believe BA pre-assigns seats for people travelling with small children, though to be honest I don't know if this effects the risk of getting bumped.

Edited: 8:02 am, April 22, 2013
Destination Expert
for Bangkok, Air Travel, Thailand
Level Contributor
14,332 posts
74 reviews
6. Re: Air France Overbooking and Children


"Why don't they keep seats available for people with infants if you can't check them in online?"

==> In all likelihood they do... but... they probably don't hold back seats *exclusively* for passengers with infants..

I bet AF operates like most - they hold back a set percentage of seats or specific seats for airport / gate use on day-of-departure.. and from here, they then decide who will get seats and who will end up being an IDB.

I think part of the issue - and a potential problem - is defining a person with an infant; are they or should they be entitled (on a carrier discretionary basis unless applicable law says otherwise) to higher order of accommodation in the case of overbooking?

For me, I can see a case being made for both yes and no.

The problem part comes (as one might expect) if you do create a higher order of accommodation for a passenger explicitly due to being with infant, what, where and how are other passengers who make have what is, or they might feel, is an equally compelling case for also being granted a higher order of accommodation passenger - just like a passenger with an infant.

In anycase, I do believe that everyone should have the same ability or chance to check-in in the same manner - ostensibly evening out the risk of a bump; or a process needs to exsist to compensate for this lack of checkin ability.

As I read this, it sounds like AF had some chances to make the process a bit easier and less chaotic - ie no running from gate to gate - and for whatever reason that didn't martialize.

I don't fault the overbooking as that is a near inevitable if you're going to have any kind of changeable tickets or on a carrier who offers connections as that's the best tool to mitigate empty seats... However I also think that when an DB situation does arise that there needs to be good organization and a game-plan for who, who and what's going to happen; and clearly articulate that to impacted passengers.

Travel Safe,

Edited: 8:14 am, April 22, 2013
Level Contributor
2,939 posts
73 reviews
7. Re: Air France Overbooking and Children

I can sympathise as the exact same thing happened to me about 6 weeks ago when I was travelling CDG to MAN alone with my then 7 month old baby.

I was slightly annoyed at the time but would call it exactly an ordeal. I do agree the policy is ridiculous and it does put me off flying AF again.

Which hotel was your partner sent too? We went to The Pullman which was fine, the hotel wasn't expecting a baby but when I requested a cot it took them about half an hour and one arrived with bedding.

I would never go anywhere, even Tesco, without a good stock of nappies, so having just a very small amount is an error on your part I feel. I feed my baby milk myself and have never given her purees, she just eats a bit of what I eat so perhaps I can see why it would be more challenging if it wasn't this simple for your partner.

I accepted 350Euro of AF vouchers as compo which I was happy with, maybe I was legally entitled to more but the convenience of just accepting those won for me.

Think the moral of the story is if travelling with small children, be prepared for every eventuality and be aware that the AF policy for lap children is pants.

Edited: 8:20 am, April 22, 2013
Level Contributor
47,876 posts
91 reviews
8. Re: Air France Overbooking and Children

Checked in 2 hours prior. The booking for said we should check in 1 hour before so it's still early as far as I'm concerned.


Sorry, I thought it was a flight to Disneyworld in Florida hence 3 hours.

Newcastle, UK
Level Contributor
3 posts
3 reviews
9. Re: Air France Overbooking and Children

Thank you for the objective and constructive comments. To elaborate on the story a little, she was packed with enough nappies and food to cover a 6 hour delay. Any more than that and she would have been pushing the limits of the hand luggage allowance although I accept the comments that she could have been slightly better prepared, but is it even possible to be prepared for 'every' eventuality? We kept checking online to see if there were any delays or problems and there were none so we reasonably assumed there would be very little / if any delay.

I was completely unaware of the common practice overbooking of flights, as a regular business traveller I've never once come across a problem, but I do also use online check in for pretty much every flight as soon as I'm able and because of the number of miles I cover I have gold status with most carriers which seems to afford me a different level of customer service.

On this occasion however I wasn't travelling with them, I had dropped them off at the airport on my way to the Euro Tunnel at Calias. I had the dog with me in the car and thought to save the baby a long car journey that the flights would be a much better option. Turns out they had more of an ordeal.

They were sent to a Campanile about 30 mins away from the airport (by shuttle bus), and there were a myriad of issues with the hotel, no cot, the AC was broken so the whole hotel was extremely hot (30 degrees C) the lift on the floor where she was allocated was broken so there was a precarious balancing act required to get the baby up and down the stairs. Any attempts to complain in the hotel were ignored.

All in all I think the hotel was just completely overwhelmed with the influx of passengers who were denied boarding. There was only one person on the desk and it took over an hour just to get checked in. Then people were re-queuing to complain of no linen, the heat etc etc.

I hadn't really come on here to moan, I really just wanted to make others aware of what seems like a ridiculous oversight by Air France so that others don't end up in the same situation. My partner is quite well travelled and usually copes extremely well under pressure and on this occasion she broke down several times because it seemed like nobody from Air France were willing or able to offer any sort of help.

After the fiasco racing to the gate and back she was handed a fistful of vouchers with no instructions what to do with them, some nappies that were too small and sent on her way. There were other families with young children left in the exact same situation.

All in all by the time she had got to the hotel it was well past midnight, the baby was distressed, no cot meant my partner stayed up all night with him to make sure he didn't roll off the bed, and he was stripped because the heat in the room was making him sick.

Even if the overbooking thing is a regular occurrence, and the policy that AF don't reserve seats for infants aside.

Had they been a little more willing to help, offered some guidance on what to do next or tried to expedite their safe delivery to the hotel so the baby could be fed, bathed and put to bed as soon as possible the paltry offer of 250EUR might have seemed like reasonable recompense.

Level Contributor
37 posts
2 reviews
10. Re: Air France Overbooking and Children

Mrpogden thank you for highlighting this issue. It sounds like an ordeal to me. Some airlines are great at looking after people with children, obviously not AF.

I am due to fly with Air France soon with my infant but because of your post I will try fly with a different operator.

Thanks again.

Edited: 7:44 am, June 20, 2013