This is the place where I will complain about services or products or companies who do live up to their reputation.

Air France’s Unwritten Policy Regarding Flight Change Fee Unfair – March 2010

I bought a return ticket from Toronto to Toulouse in November when I was visiting my parents. I was to return to Toronto March 3rd but because of a house fire (a Force Majeure, in my opinion) and the time allowed by French law for our insurance company to resolve the issue of responsibility and allow reconstruction to begin, I could not leave at the scheduled time.

Several weeks ago, when I realized I would have to delay my trip, I went online to change my flight for a month later, knowing that I would have to pay the $200 change fee. But no matter what date I inserted – a few days earlier, a few days later, then a month, then another month – the cost for a new flight was $466. I waited a few days and tried again. The same inflated price appeared. Every few days I went through the same procedure with the same result.

Finally, I called the online support number and explained my problem to an Air France representative in Montreal and asked if she could find a date where the change would cost the stipulated $200. She tried and failed and then told me that as my new departure was over three months from my first flight, I was no longer eligible for the same fare. I asked why this wasn’t noted in the “Rules and Regulations” and she said it was common knowledge. I told her that I fly often and had never heard of such of rule. It should be stated beside the $200 change fee.

I had a similar problem in 2009 with Air Canada – not a fire but I had to return to Vancouver early as our house was sold. I did not want to take the time to stop in Toronto so I called Air Canada and asked if I could use the return portion of my ticket at a later unknown date. The representative said yes. I did so 6 months later and paid the change fee of $150.

I sent a complaint to Air France’s online complaint department on the weekend and have received no acknowledgement that it has been received let alone an apology. I shall send a letter by mail and if I still hear nothing, I will fly with Air France as little as possible.

Note below the data from Air France’s online rules – all that I could find that refers to my situation:

Force Majeure
means circumstances that are external to the party citing them and that are abnormal and unpredictable, the
consequences of which could not have been avoided despite all the care and attention exercised.

If a Passenger possesses a Ticket, as described in paragraph (d) above, which they have not used and if it is
impossible for them to travel for reasons of Force Majeure, as defined in Article I, the Carrier shall credit the
Passenger for the amount of their non-refundable Ticket, for a subsequent journey and subject to reasonable administrative fees, provided that the Passenger informs the Carrier as soon as possible prior to the date of the flight and provides proof of such instance of Force Majeure.

Except as otherwise provided for in the Ticket or in these General Conditions of Carriage, or, for Fares that affect the validity period of a Ticket, as stated on the Ticket itself, a Ticket is valid for carriage:
· for one year, as from the date of issue thereof, or,
· for one year, as from the date of use of the first Coupon, if such use occurs within one year of the issue thereof.

If the Passenger wishes to change all or part of their journey, they must first make contact with the Carrier.
The fare will be recalculated and the Passenger will then have the possibility of accepting the new price or keeping the original carriage, as shown on the Ticket.
If a Passenger has to change their Ticket due to a reason that constitutes Force Majeure, as defined in Article I and for which they will be requested to provide proof, the Passenger must, as soon as possible, make contact with the Carrier, which shall use reasonable efforts to ensure carriage to the next Stopover or to the Passenger´s destination, without any change in fare.

Interestingly, it did not take a Force Majeure or a complaint – just a telephone call – to get Air Canada to honour their change fee and my return flight.

I AM NOT IMPRESSED with the response (April 13, 2010) – and there is a “no reply” address on the email

Claim No 4275315001

Dear Mrs Barbara YOUNG,

We acknowledge receipt of your correspondence, and we can assure you that we take very seriously every comment from our clients.

Applicable restrictions are communicated to passengers at the time of reservation and we are sorry to learn that you were unaware of the exact conditions of your reservation. These includes the ticket’s maximum validity, the date change policy and the refund policy as well as other conditions.

We offer this initial variety of fares in an effort to provide as much flexibility and choice as possible to our passengers. Additionally we offer the possibility to adjust restricted reservations for a fee and a fare adjustement, which we understand was offered to you.

While we fully sympathise with your personal situation we regret that we are unable to modify our fare rules to take this into consideration.

We strongly suggest you verify with your travel insurance if the situation can be covered by your policy.

Thank you for placing your trust in Air France. We hope to see you soon on our routes and at

Best regards,

Ann-Shirley CELIN
Customer Care Officer

AIR FRANCE is firmly committed to respecting your privacy. We don’t share your information with any third party without your consent. For more information please read the AIR FRANCE Security policy and data confidentiality.
Société Air France, a limited company with a capital of EUR 1,901,231,625 – Bobigny Trade Register nr. 420 495 178. Non binding document.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil in the south of France – February 2010
(Written by my friend David.)


I and my friends have noticed that since the beginning of 2009 the extra-virgin olive oil in the supermarkets and health-food shops has become so acrid that it cannot be used on salads. I tried complaining to Intermarché, but when a second more expensive, brand turned out equally acrid, I was told angrily by the manager that the fault was mine not the oil’s. I had much the same treatment from one of the local health-food shops. When I complained that the product was unusable, the salesman tasted some and declared it was perfectly normal; olive oil should have a bitter taste. So it should, but not so that it burns the back of your throat after a second. Leclerc was more emolient, agreed the product was bitter, gave me my money back and continues to sell the unusable stuff in half a dozen varieties. Only their expensive Bio oil from Tunisia is what extra virgin olive oil used to be; I expect, if I could afford it, Greek olive oil would be equally good. The Greeks say the Italians put leaves in their olive to give it a bitter tang, which they, the Greeks, can distinguish from the true slight bitterness of the right stuff. But the Italians aren’t the only bad lot, though extra-virgin olive oil bought in Italy is certainly as bad as the oil sold here; oil from Spain presently sold in supermarkets and biomarkets in France also bites your throat and mouth.

I used to think the French housewife was a strong fortress against the corruption of taste by commercial interests and hoped that she would rise en colère. But I seem to be decades behind the times and the French housewife is now as unexacting and inexact in her taste, or as supine as her Anglo-Saxon counterpart in the face of les grands surfaces. The Dutch tomato, the Rousillon peach, and acrid huile d’olive extra vierge now rule in France. I am surprised that some food journalist hasn’t made a stink.

Anyway, who thought up the label ‘extra virgin? It’s as silly as the girl who said she was only a little bit pregnant.


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