A blog post by an Air France passenger narrating the nightmare he and his co-passengers had to experience at the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris has gone viral.
Jay H Shah in his letter, addressed to the Air France-KLM chairman and chief executive officer Alexandre de Juniac, has given a detailed account about how he and 35 odd Indian passengers, mostly senior citizens, were mistreated by the airline staff after their Oct 9 flight to Mumbai was cancelled.
The Air France flight AF 218, scheduled to depart at 10.50am, was initially delayed and rescheduled for 12.20pm. At 12.45pm, they were informed that the flight had been "cancelled indefinitely".
The airline staff, Shah wrote, denied Indian passengers access to the lounge forcing most of them to sleep on the floor at the airport terminal.
"There were really old, senior citizens, an old patient suffering from asthma and perhaps, just out of customer care, couldn't there have been an official assigned to tend to our grievances personally?"
The group's request for four wheelchairs for senior citizens, who could hardly walk, was overlooked and they were provided with only one.
One of the stranded passengers was 27-year-old S Mishra whose father had passed away in a car accident. Mishra desperately negotiated for a seat on any other flight to India but was flatly refused, Shah wrote.
"Let me make it very clear, we don't fly your airlines for free," Shah wrote.
"It is not surprising to notice that out of all the passengers in the entire upper deck resting area, we barely spot anyone from a nationality other than India," Shah wrote hinting at the racist attitude of the airline staff.
"The thing that lingers at the back of my mind more than anything else right now is the gut wrenching fact that everyone you know who had traveled to France earlier warned you about this, you knew you were being targeted because of your race but you're in denial thinking you're being irrational," he wrote.
While five to six passengers with Schengen visas were taken to a hotel, the rest were asked to submit their passports to apply for a transit visa.
"To my utter disbelief, only 6-7 people are given the transit visa. There is no proof of rejection on the passport, nor does it carry any form, that holds any evidence of rejection too. It made a lot of logical sense for the airline to have not applied for our visa at all considering it would help save Visa fees and money spent for our accommodation. How can you refuse a Transit Visa to a stranded passenger?"
Read Jay H Shah's blog here
In response, Air France said that, "A temporary visa was requested from the French Air and Border Police in order to accommodate customers without a Schengen visa. 24 passengers were refused this visa request by the State service agents and had to remain airside in the terminal, with Air France teams providing all the assistance they could. The Air France teams, for whom the safety and comfort of their customers is the top priority, deeply regrets what happened and the inconvenience caused to this group of passengers and is currently collecting the various elements to be able to deal with their requests in accordance with passenger rights regulations. Air France is open to diverse cultures and does not discriminate in any way."
The airline has asked for Shah's bank account details but he has said he would share it only if they tell him the details of the compensation they are offering.