Air France offered us an upgrade — then it didn’t

To the back of the plane with you! / Photo by Pat Card - Flickr
Brian Lee and Alisha Singh were looking forward to their Air France flight the same way all of us used to anticipate flying, and a few of us still do.

They were traveling from New York to Paris on an Air France Airbus A380, the famous double-decker superjumbo, and in premium economy class. “We were very excited,” he says.

But their excitement was taken to the next level when out of the blue, an Air France representative phoned his companion with an offer. Would she be interested in buying an upgrade to business class?

She has not traveled internationally before and thought they were trying to up-sell to the full business class fare. Upon informing me of the proposal from Air France, I explained that when premium cabins are empty sometimes they offer paid upgrades but it’s generally a considerable bargain.

Not knowing the exact offer, Lee decided to call back. After all, who wouldn’t want take that long trans-Atlantic flight in the best seats?

So Lee contacted Air France by phone and by email to get the details. But no details were forthcoming.

“We received several form letter responses refusing to honor our upgrade and other seemingly irrelevant responses such as, ‘It appears that two seats together are no longer available,” and so forth,” he says.

For example:

We apologize for the inconvenience. Currently, there are no other seats together available on the [flight].

You may request your seats to be changed and/or upgrades only during the checkin process.
Thank you for using the Air France E-Services.

That seemed odd. Either Air France had business class seats for these passengers, or it didn’t. But why call them with an offer if they weren’t prepared to follow through?

I asked Lee to forward all of his correspondence from Air France. I could see that it responded to each of his queries with form letters, some of them suggesting it hadn’t even bothered to read his email.

For that lapse in service alone, he probably deserves an upgrade to first class.

He adds,

Pretty appalling customer service in my opinion which has cast a very dark shadow over their brand.

This is our first time flying Air France. With our flight coming up so soon, I’m sure that I’m out of options, especially since no one at Air France can be bothered to respond appropriately.

I’ll just have to be content to remain in Premium Economy but would love an explanation as to why they offered an upgrade — whetting our appetite — and then just as quickly, pulled the rug out from under us.

I asked Air France if it could get him a better answer than a form letter. A representative called him to explain the airlines previous non-answers.

“I was contacted by Air France customer service in Montréal,” he told me. “They have no explanation for to this situation or why Ms. Singh was contacted, and refused to be of further assistance.”

That’s too bad. It makes me wonder if the call Singh received really was from Air France.

Either way, when someone phones you with an upgrade offer, which is highly unusual, you should ask them to send the details in writing. Had Singh done that, she might have been able to figure out if the upgrade was legit or not.

I can understand Lee’s disappointment. But things could be worse. He could be sitting in economy class.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Michelle C

    I got an email from the European lottery and I won a lot of money.  I just have to send them a “small fee” and all my bank info. I’m so lucky!  (sarcasm for those who can’t tell). These people should just be glad they didn’t get ripped off.   If Air France had an upgraded seat available for purchase they would have sold it to them.  I don’t see why Air France has to personalize every response.   These people are not out anything but a few hurt feelings.   Assuming it was even Air France that called them, they had to “call back.”  Maybe there were tickets to buy but they waited too long and other people bought them first.  Who knows.

  • Jonathan Potter

    How long did they leave it before calling back? Anyone sensible would snap up an offer of a cheap upgrade to business, so it’s not that surprising that by the time they decided to call back the seats had gone.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    And why wouldn’t they have asked for the details right from the beginning? I think they should just treat it as if it never happened and move on. At this point, there is no hope in Hades for them to score an upgrade. Bon voyage!

  • $16635417

    But why call them with an offer if they weren’t prepared to follow through?
    Maybe AF was prepared to follow through. Ms. Singh didn’t accept the offer.

  • finance_tony

    So they didn’t get to fly in the class they paid for?  That’s awful!  Oh, they did? 

    But Air France took their upgrade money and didn’t give them the upgrade??  They should sue! Oh, that didn’t happen either? 

    So Air France sold them seats together, then after a snafu, they sat them in separate rows?  That’s certainly worth a few miles. Oh, they did sit together?

    I’m continually amazed at how little shame people have in writing a mediator.

    And I love the missing detail, I’m sure left out by the OP.  Air France called……..but for a mysterious reason no decision was made….and then at some undetermined amount of time in the future the OP calls Air France back.   What is that all about?

  • $16635417

    Of course, as Chris mentioned a few days ago, when he DOES try to get details from someone, he gets accused of siding with the airline.

  • Sam Varshavchik

    I’ve never heard of such a thing: out of the blue, a living, breathing, human being at an airline calls you and offers an upgrade. That’s really bizarre. Especially in this day and age. When you book a ticket, at their web site, or by calling them, yes, that’s certainly par for the course. But at some later point, someone getting paid to cold-call the upcoming flight’s manifest… Doesn’t sound likely.

    Maybe if you are a super-elite frequent flyer, who puts on a million miles a year, or so, you might get concierge-level service, with Jeeves trying to cater to your every whim. But a first-time flyer with an economy ticket, that sounds like a bit of a stretch.

    It doesn’t sound like an advance-fee fraud type of a situation either. Whoever called them knew they had a reservation. Maybe some huckster is cold-calling the phone-book, expecting that, eventually, they’ll hit someone with an actual reservation, and try to scam them. But that still sounds iffy.

    Perhaps, as a first step, it should be determined that, in practice, Air France does have someone cold-calling people who have reservations, trying to upsell them. Then, once we know that, yes, they do that, then the next step would be to push them to find out what happened in this case.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I’ve never heard of an airline calling you to offer an upgrade! Maybe that Nigerian Prince was calling them looking for the taxes for his lottery winnings.

    Fishy, fishy…

    Not sure how this could be mediated because there was no real “wrong” here. If the guy had paid and the airline hadn’t delivered, then yes, there would be an issue. But a mysterious phone call that left them in the same position they were in originally doesn’t warrant an ombudsman.

  • emanon256

    Airlines have very limited inventory for these cheap offers.  If the OP turned it down, they just moved on to the next person and eventually sold them.  Now they don’t have the seats left for sale.  What’s the problem? You snooze you lose. Now they are being annoying and demanding someone that is no longer available, how does that make them deserve an upgrade to first class?
    If the OP was going to buy a car and found a good deal on one, but passed on it, and then changed their mind and came back later to try and buy it, but someone else already had bought it, would they throw a fit too?

  • emanon256

    The “New United” does this all the time now.  They will sell all of the first class seats at fire sale prices before ever giving a free upgrade to frequent flyers.  I have been on the same flight with my wife, on separate reservations, and someone from India calls her offering an upgrade for $89.  They would of course never call me or make me this offer, and when I have called and asked for the same offer, I have been told I am not eligible for the buy-up because I am eligible for a free upgrade.  Unfortunately, I have not received a free upgrade since the merger.
    My guess is the airlines are making money paying someone minimum wage or even less overseas to call people and sell really cheap upgrades, when they know no one is going to pay full price for the seats. Why give away the seats for free when they can squeeze a few more dollars out of someone else?  And of course, why advertise free upgrades to elites if you don’t actually honor them, but that was yesterday’s topic.

  • emanon256

    The “New United” does this all the time, but they won’t be calling you because you get free upgrades, or so Jeff wants you to think.  Now imagine Jeff with the devil horns.

  • john4868

    They made an offer… You declined. Changed your mind and now its AF’s fault that it is no longer available.  You even got a mediator involved.

    Small sense of entitlement?

  • Sadie_Cee

    I agree totally.  Would be astonished if the offer came from Air France.  Someone was trying to scam them. 

  • Cybrsk8r

    Form letters are always bad, but I don’t see how AF did anything wrong here.  Because, as others have mentioned, they initially declined.  Also, we don’t know that it was an actual AF rep who called them.  It could have been a scammer who hacked into AF’s reservation system and was trolling for credit card numbers.

  • john4868

    I disagree. If AF never made the call or the offer, they would have just said that. They didn’t.

  • reinbolt

    I was flying Dublin to JFK on Delta, and my name and my sisters was announced over the loud speaker at the gate and we were told we were going to be upgraded to 1st class (I’m platinum).. I gave them our boarding passes and since it was taking some time, I told them we’d stop back.. then when they called our names, they gave us back our original boarding passes and said they couldnt upgrade us since we were in the bulkhead seats.. I was perfectly happy with our bulkhead seats in economy UNTIL they told us we were upgraded.. I was pretty irritated the entire trip home!

  • Asiansm Dan

    First, why bother with Air France Business Class, even on A-380. I fly most of the time Biz Class and Air France is at the bottom of my Biz Class list. The not-completed-horizontal-bed-seat is not comfortable. The meals at KLM and LUFTHANSA are even better. Not talking about labor and union dispute and strike.
    I had better experience with UA and CO on Paris-New York Business Class than Air France. And there are many many other Asian, Middle-East and Europe Airlines on that NYC-PAR route which deliver much better Business Class than Air France.
    Secondable, when you are offer an upgrade, you have to decide on the spot. If not the Airlines will offer to the next travelers and the offers could be run out fast. I don’t like Air France Biz Class, but I don’t see Air France behave wrongly here.
    And the First Class on Air France is reserved for the almost extincted-species of the French Aristocracy or the French Bourgeois-Gentilhommes, and, I am sure the Singh won’t be happy on the AF First Cabin.

  • Asiansm Dan

     I did receive several times Airline upgrade but only free upgrade.  Me too, never hear of paid upgrade calling. United and Delta offer paid upgrade at checking and boarding.

  • RWD

    Might have been a scam to get a CC number.

  • Alan Gore

    Either the caller wasn’t really from Air France, or this was one of those spur-of-the-moment upgrade offers that you have to take advantage of when you get the call, or the opportunity passes.

  • BillCCC

    Why is this a problem? It appears that they were offered an upgrade and did not accept. Once the offer is refused Air France has no obligation to answer any of their questions. If this was indeed a scam then they should be thankful that they didn’t accept the offer.

  • mszabo

    Sometimes I don’t quite get this blog.   For the case of a cruise where a major (at least in the eyes of the customer) amenity was closed for half the cruise a $16 dollar per person credit is generous enough for Mr Elliot and 80+ percentage of the readers.  For the case of probably a misdialed number and then confusion in CS because they didn’t know any more than the customer (probably due to that first mistake), they “probably deserve an upgrade to first class”, something valued far more than $16.  

    The customers are still getting exactly what they paid for and the issue seems so minor that isn’t really worth mentioning.  

  • TonyA_says

    Today, Air France has some amazing Summer deals.
    For example, a NYC-PAR R/T ticket on Premium Voyageur (Premium Economy class) starts at $2094; while on Business Class at $2741.
    The difference between Premium Economy and Business Class can be as low as only $647 round trip.  Enjoy here

    On AF 6/7 PAR-JFK (v.v.) A388 there are more than 2x seats in Business compared to Premium Economy. (I believe 78 and 36, respectively).
    So, there probably is a good incentive to upsell PE paxs to BC for less than $650.

    IMO, if I was offered anything cheaper than this, I would grab it in a heartbeat.
    The OP was a first time JFK-PAR traveler and that would have been a fantastic way to start traveling to Europe. Sorry, but anyway Paris is beautiful and she will forget all about this failed upgrade when she gets there.

    BTW I have flown AF 6 (PAR-JFK) on economy class and even that  (cheap seat) was pretty good.

  • Steve_in_WI

    If you’re at all interested in the upgrade, why wouldn’t you ask about the price even if you expect it to be too expensive? That’s the head-scratcher here. (I can sort of understand being surprised, since I’d be if an airline called me to ask if I wanted an upgrade, but I still think most people would at least ask about the cost before just saying no. I was surprised when Hertz wanted to give me a (free) upgrade from a subcompact to a Prius at the rental counter, but I still asked what it would cost me – I didn’t just say no and assume it was an upsell I wasn’t interested in.

    Also, while Air France could have done a better job of answering their follow-up questions instead of responding with form letters, there’s absolutely nothing “irrelevant” about their response that two seats were no longer available. Because I’m sure they weren’t – after this customer rejected the upgrade offer, they almost certainly called other passengers and some of them bought the upgrade. It’s not rocket science.

  • Raven_Altosk


    I will do this. I just need to find 30 minutes to sit down at a real workstation and not a tablet…

    LOL…yeah those “free” upgrades…

  • Barbara

    Last year we flew Quantas from LAX to SYD premium economy.   It’s very nice, a HUGE improvement over economy.  You’re on the upper level, right behind business.  Just enjoy it!

  • karenell

    Whether the offer was legit or not, the form replies leave me cross-eyed. Why is it so difficult to get a straight answer out of customer service reps? It seems so unprofessional coming from large organizations and just screams – “our lives would be so much easier if all of these pesky customers would just GO AWAY!”

  • Daves

    Next thing you know, they or someone else complains to Chris that whoever called – offering to make them a contestant in the next edition of Hunger Games: Thunderdome – didn’t follow through without any payment made.

  • streamerstoo

    Fishy….Sounds like it was a scam, she should be happy she did NOT jump on it.

  • Elizabeth Smith

    I’ve never been called about an upgrade, but I have received e-mails about the possibility of paying to upgrade, and the transaction had to be completed on the website. I’ve also been offered paid upgrades at check-in on some airlines.  I think this was a bogus call.  If not, perhaps other travelers accepted the offer before they called back to accept.

  • TonyA_says

    But there is something crucial missing here. “Would you be interested in upgrading to Business Class for $???”.
    We really have no clue what the offer really is (but we are asked to vote).

    I suspect that the OP was not prepared to make a business decision when the alleged offer was made to her. If you had no clue how much a business class seat was worth, then it was certainly hard to make a quick decision. Well, then she did not respond the on-the-spot offer. Sorry.

  • TonyA_says

    It also could have come with a Flying Blue Credit card offer. Maybe. That would be a great reason for a sales person to call.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    “I’m continually amazed at how little shame people have in writing a mediator.”

    So am I…but this isn’t one of those cases.  Their queries to Air France were all greeted with form replies that didn’t answer their questions. Even with Chris’ help the end result was only a “we don’t know what happened” response. Air France never even answered the incredibly basic question of whether it was really them that called. “What is that all about?”  I don’t know…and amazingly Air France doesn’t either.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    That is the core of the problem. What should have been a simple question of “Did you guys call me?” was never answered, even after Chris intervened.  

    Clearly, Air France should know if they really called them. If the upgrade seats had all been snatched up by the time these people responded, they could simply say that.  And if they knew it wasn’t them who called, you’d think they would want to make that clear to try and head off the scammers.  Instead, they basically just shrugged and said “dunno.”  Terrible customer service.

  • cahdot

    i have no comment on this situation but just got back from france on monday and want to discuss the tsa in nice, fr and frankfurt.  apparently my underwire bra set off the walk-thru detector so i had to be wanded and bra area rang then had to be rubbed all over by them and grabbed in my unmentionable areas it was the worst invasion of my body parts i have ever received . i will save you all the details but it was obscene

  • TonyA_says

    This is easy to explain. A lot of special fares and offerings come out of a marketing department or partner of an airline that is never PUBLISHED for customer service or agencies.

    A sample of this is web-only fares. You cannot buy them by calling airline customer service number or even from an airline counter. Travel agencies may not even know about them.

    I have seen some fares sold by foreign airlines in the USA that even their local USA offices don’t know about.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    I’d be happy to sign them up… FOR FREE!

    I’d think they’d have enough to plan for their first ever out of the country trip than to waste time with this nonsense. Believe me, France will be expensive enough without shelling out extra for an upgrade…

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Seems to me some are missing the forest for the trees and getting caught up in the “spoiled passenger with a sense of entitlement” angle.  But that’s not the real story here.  In a nutshell, these people simply wanted to know if it really was Air France who called them. That’s not a particularly tough request. Yet, after numerous contacts and even Chris’ intervention, that question is STILL unanswered.  

    There were several very simple answers that would have given clarity to this case: “Yes, we called but the upgrades are all gone now.” “We don’t call with upgrade offers, so this was a scam.” Or even, “We sometimes offer upgrades but we’re not able to immediately ascertain if you were called.”  Air France provided none of these.  That’s horrible customer service.

  • IGoEverywhere

    In 55 years of being in the family business, I have never had an airline upgrade a seat before flight time. Those are the highest profit seats that are for sale until the last moment. I have had dozens of customers purchase a ticket ten times the cost of economy because it was the last seat on a particular flight. Now cruise lines offer upgrades on a regular basis, but the response time is immediate, not 1 day, 1 hour, later. AF could have and should have told them that they get what they pay for.

  • Michael__K

    I think they have a right to know at a minimum whether AF really made an offer or if it was a scammer calling.

  • GlobeRacer

    Those days are over. Since the merger the costs of the offered upgrades to a higher class has more than doubled. As early as late last year I was paying $150 to upgrade to business or first class, depending on the aircraft type, for my flights between ORD and IAD. After the first of the year those offers increased to $175.43. After the March merger those offers are now over $380 for a one way bump in class.

  • bc

    This type of thing is a first time first served scenario. Sorry, when those upgrade offers are made you need to act then and there or you will likely lose the opportunity. It’s not like they were going to hang onto two premium cabin seats while you made up your mind. It’s likely AirFrance continued to call people in the main cabin and other individuals upgraded or someone else booked those seats leaving no upgraded seats for the Singhs. 
     I don’t see where AF did anything wrong here. 

  • bc

    Why? What will that accomplish? To rub it in their face that they missed out, one more time?
    John Baker summed it up, you were offered and you declined, it’s no longer available. Move on.

  • Michael__K

    If the customer service department is incapable of contacting the marketing department to pose a basic question like this, then it makes me wonder if a customer can pay for one of these upgrades and then find out at the airport that there is no record of the transaction…  and then get the run-around trying to resolve the mess. 

  • Michael__K

    Consumer has a right to know for future reference if this was a fraudulent or legitimate offer.

    And I would think AF ought to take it seriously and involve law enforcement if someone is trying to scam their customers.

  • TonyA_says

    No. Anyone with authority can put (upgrade) your RES to BC. IMO CS has the least authority.

  • Michael__K

    You’re making an assumption.  AF has point-blank refused to confirm your assumption.

    If your assumption were true (and it may well be), why can’t AF close this matter by simply confirming?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    What they did wrong is fail to answer very simple questions, even after a mediator got involved. Did they actually call these people?  Is it even a business practice for them to call with upgrade offers? Pretty basic stuff with no clarity from them whatsoever.

    We’re left to guess that either it was a real offer and the upgrades were all snatched up…or it was a scam.  You’d think Air France would be interested in letting their customers know either that A) They sometimes have cool upgrade offers, or B) There are scammers passing themselves off as Air France.

  • Michael__K

    And if the marketing person doesn’t do it correctly?? (let’s assume an honest mistake…)

  • TonyA_says

    First of all there was NO SALE or UPGRADE that happened here. So the Marketing Person did nothing. Maybe if AF had a CRM, it would have recorded the  call or Outbound “pitch” transaction. MAYBE.

    If an upgrade or sale took place (for real), the OP will be reissued a new tkt and receipt. Millions of these transactions are done daily. How many mistakes have you heard of? It would have been done on a GDS which records ALL HISTORY (and never deletes). Always has an audit trail.

  • andi330

    If it was legit, once the customer said no initially Air France likely offered it to someone else. They are under no obligation to offer it to the customer if they call back having changed their minds. You snooze you lose. While it would be nice if they got an explanation as to why they were called, Air France doesn’t have to give it to them. And if it was a scam, then you can’t expect Air France to know why they were called.

  • Joe Farrell

    What the letter says is that seats are not available together – was THAT the hold up?  They could fly business class without sitting together?  Thats what the lite typeface used for quotes says.

    So they could book an upgrade but not sit together? 

     This one is confusing – but heck – who cares – they said no and no is the answer. 

  • Michael__K

    In person or online, sure.

    Over the phone, you can’t get a receipt immediately.  Would you at least get a new record locator?

    My point is, if you give your credit card # by phone and then what you verbally confirmed doesn’t come to fruition, you need to be able to go through CS and they need to know how to follow-up with the right department(s).  No?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Like it doesn’t matter in the slightest if this was really Air France calling or a scammer who somehow knew they were going to be flying on Air France?
    Or that it’s somehow acceptable if Air France customer service is so lost they can’t even answer if upgrade calls are something the airline does, let alone whether these people were called?

  • Asiansm Dan

     I can speculate the offer is just for one passenger (if it’s true) and they ask for 2.

  • emanon256

    My experience has been the opposite.  Pre-March-Merger it was rare if I ever got a cash upgrade offer, and the few times I did they were for $300 to $950. Post-March-Merger I have gotten frequent upgrade offers typically for $139 – $275.   Often these are presented at check-in with a message stating I can skip the waitlist and upgrade now for $139, etc. and then it states that there are currently 45-70 however many people on the waitlist.  My wife then gets offers for even a lower price, and she gets phone calls pushing the offers on her.  These are typically DEN-ORD, DEN-BOS, and DEN-LGA flights.  It’s no wonder I have not gotten a single free upgrade since the merger.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    If customer service really is that disconnected, it’s a very bad sign. Looking at this case, for the sake of the airline’s security customer service would need to know at minimum that upgrade calls were something the airline did. The alternative would be a scammer actually knowing these people were going to be flying Air France. That’d potentially be a huge security breach. You’d want customer service to flag stuff like that and alert the rest of the airline. Hard to do that if they don’t even know if the offer was legitimate.

  • emanon256

    Do we really know if Air France answered or not?  All we have is what the OP told Chris that and Air France person told them on the phone.  We don’t know anything Air France actually said.

  • emanon256

    I don’t see where Air France ever said they don’t know, nor where the OP asked if they were called or not.  All we know is that the OP told Chris they received a call and “They have no explanation for to this situation or why Ms. Singh was contacted, and refused to be of further assistance.” Mind you, the OP is not even the person who got the call; it was their friend Ms. Singh.

  • judyserienagy

    Why did Air France treat them like this?  BECAUSE THEY CAN.  Airlines can barely stay in business, they have no time/talent to take care of their customers. 

    I have never heard of an airline calling a passenger to offer an upgrade.  Upgrades go to elite flyers unless you get really lucky at checkin or at the gate.  No doubt it was a scam, the caller was hoping to get some credit card information.  Quite clever, actually.  Alisha was correct to not respond.

    So what did we learn here?  If your carrier calls you aith an offer of an upgrade, say YES but when they want to put the new charge on your credit card, tell them to put the upgrade charge on the same credit card you used to book the tix.  I’ll bet we see alot of this in the next few months, many flyers would fall for it.

  • bc

    Please explain how this “scam” works you start randomly calling people and say you’re from AirFrance and hope they have a reservation? This is pretty far fetched. 

    Occam’s razor, in absence of more evidence the simplest solution suggests  that they missed an opportunity to upgrade. 

  • Michael__K

    Lots of people could be in a position to know they have a reservation.  Not just AF insiders (thought that’s one possibility), but (for example) websites that provide literature, coupons etc. for filling out a form, hotels and services they may have contacted in France…

    Not saying this is “likely” what happened, but receiving a call like this sounds pretty unusual even for many of us who’ve flown frequently, so a dose of suspicion is warranted.

  • Chasmosaur

    Are there no travelers who write into Chris who have real problems that need mediating?

  • emanon256

    Apparently not.

  • Crissy

    While I don’t like that AF didn’t really answer their questions about this, I don’t think they owe them the offer either.  They may have just wanted to get a few people to pay for the upgrade and after they met their number they were done with the deal.  Basically, they were ready with the offer when they called the OP, but not later on when they filled all the slots.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Chris has copies of all their form letters failing to answer the question. While theoretically possible that AF finally got its act together and answered on the final correspondence (and the OP lied about it to Chris) it hardly seems likely given we know they dropped the ball several previous times.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Then I’d suggest you re-read the article because Chris concludes it by saying he doesn’t even know if it was really Air France that called them. (And he read through multiple email all over a yes or no question.)

    The one form email Chris quotes seems to suggest it was a legitimate offer when they speak of no longer having seats together, etc., but their final word on the matter–issued after Chris got involved and specifically asked them for clarification–was that they had “no explanation” which translates to “I don’t know” in my book.

  • TonyA_says

    I think this was an UPSELL not an upgrade we are all used to AFTER CHECK IN. I’ve never had anything like this before. too. But Emanon confirms his wife is getting these calls.

  • SallyLu

    I agree Joe – the complaint seems to be that these people just wanted a direct response to their question.  I don’t know what important details were left out of their story – the person who got the call didn’t immediately accept the upgrade because she thought it was just an “upsale” call, to try to get her to purchase the upgrade at full price.  When she told the Op, he thought they might be able to get a good deal, so they called back.  But then no one at AF knew what they were talking about and sent form letters in response to their questions.  If it really was AF that called, and the Op called back too late, why couldn’t AF just say that?  Yes, we had 2 seats, but someone else took them.  Sorry.  End of story. 
    Or it really might have been that someone was trying to scam them, which many people might fall for, since it was very specific to their actual travel plans.  I’m not sure I get why so many people are acting like this couple are somehow “entitled whiners” when it really seems to me like they just wanted a straight answer.  What’s wrong with that?
    By the way, I don’t think they are owed anything as far as a free upgrade for their trouble or the like. I just believe that AF should have been able to give them a straight answer.

  • TonyA_says

    Before the web, this was the way we bought tickets – over the phone (unless we wanted to go over as visit an agent). This is nothing but a telephone booking. You get your confirmation by email if you have one.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I also don’t believe they’re owed anything other than a straight answer…and they never ask for anything other than that. The only mention of any kind of compensation was Chris saying that such a major lapse in customer service should probably be worth an upgrade–but that was Chris talking and not the OP.

  • Joe Farrell

    My wife was traveling on business to Houston –

    Coach was $1315 roundtrip for a 1 day out and back business roundtrip.

    First Class was $1405.  We paid the difference in fare without a problem.

    She gets done early and want to come home early – first class is $812 at the last minute instead of $702.  She rolls her eyes and says ok – and then they want to upsell her to a $1161 fare =

    literally “We’re sorry but the ticket price goes up inside 2 hours before departure.” 

    So while she is standing in line talking to the agent to change her ticket they try to snarf another $350 from her – she declines.  And goes and sits in the airport bar blackberrying  for 3 hours until her original flight.

    Thats the kind of stupidity that puts companies out of business – they are NOT going to sell that first ticket on a 3 hour flight for $1200 inside 2 hours from departure – what they are going to do is give the seats away to their frequent fliers and generate zero additional revenue.  Idiots.

  • backprop

     I missed that.  Who did that?  I’d expect a mediator to do nothing less!

  • TonyA_says

    This is not bogus

    Apparently Air France does a program they call an Upgrade Offer.

    What is the Upgrade offer?

    The Upgrade offer lets you upgrade your travel class at an attractive rate*: at the airport and on board, you receive all  services offered in your upgrade cabin, and you have the right to the upgraded cabin’s baggage allowance**.
    If you booked a ticket in:
    – the Voyageur cabin,  you can purchase an upgrade for the Premium
    Voyageur or Affaires cabins,
    – the Premium Voyageur cabin, the Upgrade option lets you travel in the Affaires cabin,
    – the Affaires cabin, the upgrades lets you travel in the La Première cabin.

    Please note:
    – Flying Blue members earn Miles based on their original travel  cabin.
    – The Upgrade option is personal and non-transferable. It cannot be used for another flight and cannot be refunded.

    * Only a limited number of upgrades are available. The rate for the Upgrade option is per person and per flight.
    ** Baggage allowance is the number and weight of baggage items you  are allowed to transport in the hold at no extra charge.

    How do I benefit from the Upgrade offer?

    The Upgrade offer is available on all long-haul flights provided by Air France and those provided by other airlines with an Air France flight number. If you are deemed eligible for this offer, Air France will send you an e-mail 7 days before departure to offer an upgrade on your flight. Simply register for the upgrade and indicate your preferred upgrade cabin.

    We will then contact you within 5 days of your departure:
    – If we are able to offer you an upgrade, we will contact you by phone. You can then pay for your upgrade over the phone using your  credit or debit card, and we send you an e-mail confirmation. You can only purchase an upgrade if Air France contacts you by phone.
    – If no upgrades are available, you will receive an e-mail stating  that we were unable to meet your request for an upgrade.

     How do I pay for the Upgrade offer?

    The rate for the Upgrade option is per person and per flight.
    All payments must be made by credit or debit card (in euros).
    It is not possible to redeem Flying Blue Miles to pay for Upgrades.
    However, Flying Blue customers may use the upgrade Award offered by the loyalty program.
    For all other questions, please contact us at the following address:

    There you go folks, stop doubting :-)

  • backprop

    It would be nice to know, but to get a mediator involved in order to get an answer to something so inconsequential is silly.  An answer won’t change a thing in this bizarre case.

    It reminds me of Chris’s fellow blogger who “simply wanted someone from the company to engage in a reasonable dialog” on his webcast.  In this case, the request is reasonable, but why involve a third party when the consequence is absolutely nil?

  • TonyA_says

     Emanon, read my long post towards the end of the thread.
    This is not bogus. Air France will (up)SELL upgrades.
    Maybe United is just following Air France or vice-versa.
    Must be the new trend. Outbound call to make extra cash flow!

  • TonyA_says

     Michelle, this is not a bogus. Air France actually has an Upgrade Offer program and the only way to buy it and pay is by phone WHEN THEY CALL YOU. I was surprised, too.

    I posted the details towards the end of this thread.

  • TonyA_says

    Read my new post on “This is not bogus”.
    Apparently Air France will call you and make an offer. If you don’t pay (by credit card) during the call, then sorry baby the deal is gone.

  • Lindabator

    Unfortunately, what one department may offer may not even be documented in the file when they contact a res agent.  Just another case here of you snooze, you lose.  If the agent who offered the upgrade was told no, she would have just moved on to the next booking, probably never even notating the record.  (No usually does mean no – not maybe)

  • Lindabator

    Yes – they DO do that.  But it is a short term offer, and if she told them no, they would have just moved on to the next record, and those folks were probably smart enough to say yes, so when HE called back, no seats left! 

  • Lindabator

    Actually, Raven, they do.  BUT it is on a first-come, first-serve basis, so when SHE said no, they moved on and offered it to soemone else who said yeas, so by the time HE called – no longer available.  And since those who call about upgrades are NOT in res, if they did not document the record with their call, res wouldn’t have a clue!

  • Lindabator

    NO – they do this all the time – but RES doesn’t call, they have a separate group that does it, so when she declined, unless they added remarks to her record, when HE calls res back, they haven’t got a clue!

  • Lindabator

    But it all depends on WHO they spoke to.  The upgrades are not offered or available to general res agents, and unless the person who called them noted their record (HIGHLY unlikely!), when res gets this question, they are clueless!

  • Lindabator

    Air France has done so for a long time, actually.  Just a limited number of seats though, so no time to be wishy-washy!

  • Lindabator

    AMEN!!!   My point exactly!  And Air France has already said they no longer had 2 seats together, and Chris asks them for more clarification, at which point, they get all legal, and don’t want this to escalate.  Can’t say as I blame them.

  • Lindabator

    No – Air France does make these offers, but you have to decide immediately or they move to the next booking.  So why did this guy think they should have held these seats when she had already said no??

  • Lindabator

    I agree – that was a ridiculous rmark – they were made an offer, refused it, and are now whining.  Get over it!

  • Lindabator

    No, AF actually does make these offers regularly, although space IS limited!

  • Lindabator

    Not bogus, but LIMITED – and yes, AF will just offer it to the next client, who in this case, obviously said yes!

  • Lindabator

    But they had already sent an email response that they no longer had two seats together, and he still sicked Chris on them – obstensibly to actually GET those seats which no longer existed.

  • Lindabator

    I have as well, as have a couple of my clients.  And you are correct – it is an UPSELL.  But a limited one, and when you say no, they just offer it to someone else!

  • Lindabator

    But once they had emailed them they no longer had 2 seats together, Chris still contacted them, at which point, they might have felt this was a legal problem, and refused to discuss the matter further.  After all, most people who choose not to accept an offer don’t then go back and complain about that choice.

  • Lindabator

    But you are not aware of the fact that AF DOES do this.  I have seen this in the past, and yes, they will be happy to add it to the credit card you previously used, as it is on file with them.

  • S E Tammela

    YES! Finally someone said it.
    Air France have messed up by denying that they made the call (come ON people, it wasn’t a fake call – the caller knew they had premium economy seats). They then messed up by not reading the emails, repeatedly, and not even having a record of the original call or what happened. They’ve also messed up, since when you disappoint a customer (even one who misunderstands or leaves it too late to accept a deal) you try to make it right. Perhaps if there’s no business class seat, perhaps we’re talking an offer of a glass of wine on the plane, perhaps the same offer for the return leg, perhaps a small discount voucher on a future flight.But for goodness’ sake, a little bit of disappointment and a mangling of communications doesn’t deserve thousands of dollars worth of first-class upgrade.

  • S E Tammela

    How would a scammer know they already had seats on the flight? Magic?

  • Raven_Altosk

    Interesting, Tony. 
    Very interesting. 

    So now elite “comp” upgrades are going to be harder and harder to come by. I am sadface.

  • Raven_Altosk


  • Joe_D_Messina

    But the big picture consequence isn’t nil. Chris has used this case to alert consumers to the fact that Air France’s customer service struggles to answer simple questions, even when a mediator gets involved. He also used this as an opportunity to alert people to possible scams.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    sounds like Air France were trying to fill bus class & so called passengers. Singhs offerred the deal from hell, but couldn’t make a decision, so caller kept calling passengers.

    By the time Singhs made a decision, they were all gone. Tough luck. Next time make a decision on the spot.

    As far as emails go, they were trying to tell you in a nice way, you were too bloody slow making a decision (you losers).

    It’s the old story, 1st in best dressed.

    Whoever Air France spoke to, should have said yes, NOT, can I think about it.

    Only losers can’t make decisions.

    In this world YOU MAKE A DECISION OR DIE.

    This is one of the reason why the world can longer afford public(civil) servants. They can’t make a decision to save their lives.

  • Michael__K

    asked and answered (see reply to bc)

  • Michael__K

    Thanks for confirming!  That’s amazing that you were able to dig this up, but not one of the CS reps contacted by the OP or Chris could.

    There’s no mention in the story about a prior email, so something probably went wrong there either on the OP’s end or on AF’s end…

  • TonyA_says

    As Linda said when people call CS they usually get the RES dept. They can help mainly with your booking. But normally they have no clue what the marketing dept is doing until the RES records reflect a change.

    Even in our own small office, emails are regularly sent out with deals from airlines or travel sources. Then someone calls in to ask about the email they got and our CSR has to dig up a copy before they can answer correctly. This is normal – the left does not know what the right hand is doing.

    Frankly, I have been hearing these upgrade offers for some time but I ignored them because I thought people were just pulling my leg. My sister got some kind of deal from KLM but not Air France. So after reading this story I decided to dig further. Wow what a shocker, even Air France does it.

    The most interesting thing is that the deal is closed during a phone conversation ONLY. Either you are ready to pay with your credit card or you lose your chance. As Emanon said you snooze you lose. I learned something new today.

  • TonyA_says

     The French emails were too polite. LOL

  • djp98374

    Why jump on it I n a heart beat. ?

    JFK to Paris isn’t all that much different than a cross country flight or a west coast trip to Hawaii.

    If this was a longer flight…like the 16 hr flights from the US to Australia or new Zealand that would be different.

    If the price was much lower than $600 pp then I’d take it. But $1000 for two people is a lot in my opinion.

    I’d be moe inclined to use miles to upgrade rather than pay.

  • Linda Loudermilk Tomberlin

    Maybe once she said no, they sold those seats to someone else.  She had her chance, she passed on it.  Done is done.

  • TonyA_says

    I meant if I was offered a ~300 Euro upgrade offer, I will take it. Trying to upgrade with miles for Skyteam is difficult or very expensive since you almost need a full-fare ticket for international upgrades.

    Nevertheless the $27xx Bus Cls fare from AF is a bargain since that is half of the I-class current fare. If I was going to Paris in June, I will seriously consider it.

    Note Delta also sells the same $2.7K fare on “S” Bus Cls. effective 29JUN. An upgradable M Econ Class ticket will cost more before you can upgrade with miles. I have 3 family members loaded with Skyteam miles and cannot use them internationally since a discounted Business Class ticket is usually cheaper than a Delta/KLM/AF Y/B/M upgradable ticket.

  • Lindabator

    But it is not a scam – and just because they didn’t like the answer that Af no longer had 2 seats together, they had Chris approach the airlines once again, and that is probably why AF gave the final response – they may have fealt this was escalating into a legal hassle, and just refused to answer any further questions.

  • Michael__K

    Do you work for Air France?

    If not, let me get this straight: YOU know as an outsider that AF makes these calls.  But we shouldn’t expect customer-facing AF employees to have a clue whether or not their own company makes these calls?  And we shouldn’t expect them to expend any effort to find out when a customer or a consumer advocate asks them?  We should expect them to consider it a “legal” department matter???

  • sershev

    It was a one time offer and they should have taking it upon receiving a phone call. When they hanged up I am sure a representative called next customer on the list who probably took the offer. Therefore when they called back to a different call center no one knew what is going on. One time I receive a call from Continental with an offer to depart from an alternative airport and in exchange get a generous credit voucher. I took the offer because it was a one time opportunity. Would I call back, another representative would not know what I would be talking about. 

  • Lindabator

    YES – I worked for the airlines, and am STILL in the industry after 20 years – unlike you, who attacks anyone with knowledge on this site.  And once they had already given the answer to the client that they no longer had 2 seats, having a consumer advocate approach for more information may have looked like a possible legal problem to them, in which case, they are TRAINED to refuse to answer questions, as that is up to the legal department.  And as the reservations department does NOT make this offer, unless notes are made in their record (highly unlikely since they declined the offer), if they just called the res department, they would be unable to answer his questions.

  • Sadie_Cee

    I am astonished!

  • Michael__K

    Of course you ignored the actual question which was: “Do you work for Air France?” 

    If you are still in the “industry” I’m willing to bet that you answer your clients’ specific questions specifically and are sly enough not to disparage them and talk down to them with contempt like you repeatedly do in your posts on this blog.

    It was clear enough to Chris and to most of us reading this story that a response of: “two seats together are no longer available” was not a coherent response to any question the OP’s actually asked (did it mean they could still  upgrade as long as they were willing to sit separately???)

  • Lindabator

    You are always such an a@@ to anyone who has more knowledge than you – I worked for United, worked WITH Air France as a top producer for them, and have been in the industry 20 years.  You always attack those here who know more than you do, so I never understood why you even botrher to post, as you obviously are not looking for knowledge, just wish to be rude and obnoxious.  And as a matter of fact, people FROM this site have used my services, and I have not found any complaints – I always go above and beyond to accommodate my clients – and if they wer flying on AF, i would have already have given them a head’s up, as I do with United.

  • Michael__K

    I comment in many cases in support of fellow travellers who were treated poorly, even if it’s a minor issue and even though I don’t know them.

    You appear to be here to promote your own “knowledge” and to defend in every single case the companies whose products you sell, and to crudely insult and disparage anyone who calls into question any of the defenses or speculative excuses you bring up.

    In this case, it’s especially ironic because you throw the reservation agents’ knowledge under the bus.  You claim they are “clueless” (your word) about their own company’s practices.  Yet you expect others to not even question your unverifiable say-so about ever aspect of their company’s operation (even though you don’t work there).

    I appreciate genuine knowledge, but I have news for you: whatever domain “knowledge” you do or don’t have doesn’t give you any special standing to decree that a customer doesn’t deserve an answer to a reasonable question.

    I’ve dealt with many customers professionally (so I have my own knowledge in this area) and the only acceptable answer to a question I don’t know the answer to is: “I don’t know but I can try to find out.”

  • Michael__K

    moved below