Downgraded on Air France, but where’s their refund?

air franceLisa and Wayne Roccaforte felt lucky to have premium economy class seats on their recent Air France flight from Paris to Houston.

With good reason: The seats have 38 inches of “pitch” and are 19 inches wide, a sharp contrast to the medieval 32 inches of legroom and 17 inches of seat space in economy class. (Seriously, folks, that should be illegal.)

But try as hard as they might, the Roccafortes couldn’t avoid Torture Class on their transatlantic flight.

“We arrived at Charles de Gaulle three hours before our flight to check in and were told that the flight was very full,” remembers Lisa Roccaforte. “The woman that checked us in told us we may be moved to business class.”

That didn’t happen. She explains what happened next:

At the gate as we were walking on the plane, they took our boarding passes away from us and gave us new ones that had my husband and sister-in-law moved to economy seats. They left my seat in premium economy.

When we tried to tell them no, we bought those seats months ago and chose the seats months ago, they told us we had no choice and to speak to Houston about a refund. We were in shock.

Who wouldn’t be? After a ticket agent promises you a possible upgrade to business class, which has a civil amount of legroom and reasonably good service, two members of her party were being sent to steerage to feed the rats. (And on Air France, no less — sacre bleu!)

Now, we can all agree that the right way to handle this is as follows: An insincere form letter (is there any other kind?) and a prompt refund of the difference between premium economy and the back-of-the-plane fare.

But that would be too easy.

The family did receive the form apology and two $200 vouchers, and eventually an $840 refund, which represents the upgrade fee for two tickets.

But Roccaforte looked up the rules for involuntary downgrades. EU regulations entitle her to a 75 percent refund. She also requested a refund for her seat, even though she voluntarily downgraded herself to economy class to sit with her party.

“I paid $1,805 for each of the seats,” she says. “The 75 percent refund should be $1,354 for each seat.”

After several emails and phone calls, they found themselves talking with Delta, Air France’s codeshare partner in the United States.

Every person I talk to tells me to do something else. The EU Regulation rules state we are entitled to a refund, and that Air France should have let us know before we were walking on the plane that we were being downgraded.

They should have also informed us of our rights. They were also supposed to refund our money within 7 days. I can’t find anyone to tell me the process to receive a refund.

I recommended that the Roccafortes contact Euro Flight Delays, which specializes in EU 261 complaints, and is also an underwriter of this site. But I also asked Delta about her case.

Here’s what it said:

When the Roccafortes were moved from Premium Economy to regular economy they simply were not provided an amenity they had purchased. They were not, however, downgraded as she asserts from one booking class to another, i.e. business class to coach.

From her note, I see they were issued vouchers as a goodwill gesture and refunded the “premium economy” fee they had previously paid.

There is a fixed price compensation for those who pay for but are not seated in the Premium Economy section of the plane after paying for it. That amount must be $420 per person as verified by the refunds department when she called. Lisa Roccaforte, understandably, moved on her own volition when her husband wanted to be seated near her.

They are not due the EU compensation referenced or the 75 percent refund because they were not downgraded from business to coach, or, as AF designates it, La Premiere to Voyageur.

In other words, premium economy and economy technically aren’t separate classes, at least for EU regulation purposes.

“They were presented as different classes when we bought the tickets,” says Roccaforte. “I believe Air France is trying to get out of paying compensation. There are distinct classes of seats on the website when one purchases tickets. How can this not be a downgrade?”

I share her frustration. I don’t think she would be complaining as loudly if Air France’s economy class seats were truly uncomfortable, as most economy class seats are. I can see how Delta’s response would add insult to injury. But at least it didn’t pocket her upgrade fee, as I’ve seen some airlines do.

Did Lisa and Wayne Roccaforte get enough compensation for their downgrades?

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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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  • EdB

    “When the Roccafortes were moved from Premium Economy to regular economy they simply were not provided an amenity they had purchased.”

    I wonder what those “amenities” were they didn’t get. Was it anything more than just more seat space? I don’t see how it wouldn’t be a different class if there was a fare difference.

  • y_p_w

    So I guess the question is “When is a downgrade not technically a downgrade”. Check.

    When I saw the title I thought maybe they weren’t returned the difference they paid, but apparently they were.

    Still – I’ve got to say that a few inches is nice. Heck – we got a row in United’s “Economy Plus” and found it pretty nice. And we didn’t even pay for it – that just turns out to be where we were assigned after clearing up a SNAFU that we weren’t actually on a US Air flight (was a codeshare with United but that wasn’t on our reservation).

  • y_p_w

    They’re supposed to come with bonuses too.

    There’s priority check-in (and I have been in some long, long lines and eyed the priority line). However, we travel with a 2 YO now, and that alone has gotten us looks from various priority counters to go ahead as well as invitations to the priority screening line. They also have extra checked-in baggage allowances, two standard sized carry-ons, priority exit, and priority delivery of checked-in baggage.

    And supposedly different meals just for Premium Economy:

  • Alan Gore

    THey got their Premium Economy upgrade fees back, didn’t they? Technically EU law might apply here because the segment started in the EU, but Air France is probably figuring that Americans are used to offhand treatment by domestic carriers, and therefore will be just thrilled to get their upgrade fees back.

  • davidglass

    Sue Air France in small claims court and let a judge sort out the facts. If Air France doesn’t show up, take the default judgement to the local sheriff and have them enforce the judgement by impounding an AF A340 and threaten to sell it to the highest bidder to obtain the monies owed. I guarantee you AF will pay under those circumstances.

  • y_p_w

    I’m pretty sure that a small claims court in the US isn’t going to take on EU regulations. They would have to seek to enforce the terms in Europe.

    Besides, who would try to impound a plane when they have other assets whose worth are more in line with the few hundred dollars that’s in question?

  • TonyA_says

    I feel like a rat feeder already. All I can afford is steerage class :(

    If you think you will get a lot more than 32″ pitch and 17″ width on (Discount) Economy International, you have got to be in another planet. Depending on the airline, this configuration can be acceptable for a low price. I am an NYC-TYO and NYC-HKG passenger flying NH and CX on these routes respectively and cannot afford the separate Premium Econ cabin. Even if the numbers is Seat Guru are different for the above carriers, I can’t tell the difference between their 777s in steerage class. Just buy the cheapest fare on a damn good airline and go to sleep (anesthesia helps, too).

  • davidglass

    Who says the judge won’t take the case? The flight begins in the EU and terminates in the US. Jurisdictional arguments could be made on both sides of the pond.

    Sheriff’s discretion as to what assets are fit to seize. If they think seizing a large asset will have the desired effect of getting the judgment paid, they will take the large asset. Remember, the sheriff doesn’t really want to take assets and sell them, they just want to get the debtor to pay up.

  • TonyA_says

    I believe Air France is just simply mistaken.
    CORRECTION: Delta was talking on behalf of AF so it is Delta that is mistaken.

    For some airlines (e.g. Air France, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, etc.) Premium Economy is a separate cabin. It has also different fare basis (codes) than economy or business class. Finally, Air France Premium Economy fares have a different fare type code (WU PREMIUM ECONOMY UNRESTRICTED and WR PREMIUM ECONOMY RESTRICTED) when filed (with ATPCO) which is completely apart from (regular) economy and excursion fares.

    In other words, on Air France Premium Economy is a separate CLASS and CABIN.

    Ok, so what does EU261 say?

    Article 10
    Upgrading and downgrading
    1. If an operating air carrier places a passenger in a class higher than that for which the ticket was purchased, it may not request any supplementary payment.
    2. If an operating air carrier places a passenger in a class lower than that for which the ticket was purchased, it shall within seven days, by the means provided for in Article 7(3), reimburse
    (a) 30 % of the price of the ticket for all flights of 1 500 kilometres or less,or
    (b) 50 % of the price of the ticket for all intra-Community flights of more than 1 500 kilometres, except flights between the European territory of the Member States and
    the French overseas departments, and for all other flights between 1 500 and 3 500 kilometres, or
    (c) 75 % of the price of the ticket for all flights not falling under (a) or (b), including flights between the European territory of the Member States and the French overseas departments.

    I don’t speak or understand French, but to me, it seems loud and clear Article 10 clearly applies to a passenger who bought an Air France Premium Economy ticket and got downgraded to Economy.
    I want to be clear that this article does *not* apply to Delta’s Economy Comfort because that is NOT a different class or cabin.

    IMO Air France owes the OP 75% of the price of the ticket. Now the argument will be what do they mean by price? Is it only for the segment or flight the OP got downgraded? I suppose so since that’s the only portion where the OP was not made whole.
    So take a look at Fare Construction Line of the ticket, get the CDG-IAH segment, and compute 75% of that.
    Please note I disagree with the computation of the OP since he computed from the total price of ALL the flights he bought (the whole ticket).

  • y_p_w

    But what jurisdiction would a small-claims court have regarding EU regulations? I think they might be able to take that on if Air France refused to return the Premium Economy upgrade fee, but they did return it. The 75% refund is purely an EU regulation.

  • Wayne Roccaforte

    The price according to EU compensation is suggested to be the whole ticket.

  • TonyA_says

    Where did you see the word “WHOLE” mentioned in Article 10.
    It does NOT make any sense. Suppose I am in a RTW (Round the World) ticket? I get downgraded in one segment inside Europe. It is UNJUST if they have to pay me 75% of an RTW ticket.
    If fact it mentions FLIGHTS as in “price of the ticket for all flights not falling under (a) or (b). That means they are talking about ticket coupons*.
    Be Fair or lose credibility

    ADDED: *this needs some explanation. When you are issued tickets for your flights, each flight segment is given a ticket coupon. Also, each leg or segment is priced separately and then summed to give you the total. It is possible to tell you the fare for the specific leg or segment (flights) where you were downgraded. That could then be the basis of the refund. Without seeing your ticket, I cannot even begin to compute the cost of the leg in question.

  • TonyA_says

    Chris, I don’t mean to nitpick, but the section or article that applies does not speak of compensation as in the case of delays, cancellations, and denied boarding. The Article talks about REIMBURSEMENT of a part of the amount you paid the airline.
    Compensation is usually a fixed amount and is quite clear. Reimbursement requires Accounting for the cost of the ticket or flight where the downgrade occurred.
    If the OP was only downgraded for the return leg of a roundtrip ticket, then he enjoyed Premium Economy on the outbound or departure leg. He is not entitled to a reimbursement of that leg or flight since there was nothing wrong with it. My understanding is he should be reimbursed a portion of the ticket cost of ONLY the flights or legs where the involuntary downgrade actually occurred.

  • sirwired

    I agree that they are separate classes of service.

    On another note I always get at least mildly annoyed at travel articles that depict coach class as “torture”, “steerage”, “cattle class”, etc. Yes, the seats are not super-comfortable. Yes, you’ll have trouble using a laptop. Yes, you’ll have trouble sleeping. But the vast majority of the traveling public that uses those seats (including myself) seem to think they are an acceptable form of travel.

    I have a little bit of a hard time understanding legroom complaints. I have legs so long I literally cannot buy pants off the rack in any store. (32×36) Yet somehow I’ve never had my knees jammed against the seat in front of me or in any way felt I had an uncomfortable amount of legroom. I think the only time my knees were on the cramped side was on an ERJ; certainly never on a trans-oceanic flight.

    All too many sites treat failing to get an upgrade (or losing one) as triggering some sort of Herculean feat of pain tolerance and endurance. It’s not. Stop whining about being stuck in the back with the proles and enjoy the fact you are traveling on the safest AND fastest form of mass travel ever devised at a pittance compared to prices, say, 30 years ago. (You’d NEVER be wistfully longing for the “Golden Age of Air Travel” if you had to pay those prices!)

  • SoBeSparky

    Carnac the Magnificent sees a new EU regulation in the future. “Class” will be defined as a different seating area with a different seat design. Delta gets today’s “screw you” award.

  • PsyGuy

    I agree, I’m 5’9″ (tops) 170lbs, and I can curl up in an economy seat and take a nap. I find economy very comfortable. People seem to complain and trash economy over what amount to is 2 inches.

  • Sean M.

    Some comments.

    a) Delta is incorrect. Premium Economy is a distinct class of service on Air France, unlike Delta’s own “Economy Comfort” equivalent, which is simply ancillary services. Therefore, for an Air France operated flight, a downgrade did occur as per the definitions of EU 261/2004 and he is due reimbursement of 75% of the value of his ticket for the flight on which he was downgraded.

    b) EU statutory compensation is provided on the basis of the segment that is affected, not the entire itinerary. Therefore, the value of the ticket eligible for the reimbursement is the value of the Paris to Houston coupon excluding taxes and fees.

    c) For his ticket price to have been $1805 roundtrip including taxes and fees, his fare basis would most likely have been AKXLSUS. The one-way coupon value for the AKXLSUS fare that he was traveling on when he was downgraded is $560. 75% of this is $420, which is coincidentally the exact value of the reimbursement provided.

    The passenger has been given the appropriate reimbursement due as per EU 261/2004, but obviously has not had it explained to him appropriately.

  • Boston FF

    Air France? Are we surprised? Mais non! Bottom line-void AF at all costs..notorious for.horrible seats, bad food, filthily dirty planes, bad policy, worse customer service. Flyers beware.

  • Bill___A

    I would define a class difference as a section of seats which either the service, the space or both were distinctly different. Premium economy is definitely a different class.
    Air France should have managed their inventory better or offered them a later flight with hotel paid.

  • Aprole

    I’m 5’3.Twelve years ago we flew to Hawaii on cheap tickets. I was astonished to have my knees bumping the seat in front of me, since I’m shorter than average. I have never had such an uncomfortable flight as that one! I told my husband I would never FLY to Hawaii again. It was the only flight on which I’ve ever been that cramped. Now I know that I happened to choose an airline which has packed more seats into their planes than some others, but I was naively unaware of that at the time I booked our flight. And also we were in the back row which cannot recline — but I’d flown in that row a few times on Continental with no problems so expected the same. I know from experience that complaints about legroom are not baseless.

  • EdB

    I would even go so far as to say if the airline advertise it differently. From what was said in an earlier post, Delta’s “Economy Comfort” is the same seat as “Economy” but you get extra services. So if Delta changed you from Economy Comfort to just Economy, even if you stay in the same seat, that should be considered a class change. Any time to airline doesn’t provide all the items listed at the time of booking, that should be a class change because you are not getting what you originally agreed upon or paid for. Delta’s response that it wasn’t a class change is just pure BS.

  • emanon256

    You answered what I was wondering after reading the article. If its a separate cabin and booking class, its a true down grade and she should be compensated as such.

    I am used to Untied model where economy is economy and you can be on an S fare and sit in economy or purchase economy plus as an amenity and still be on an S fare. This was not the case here.

    Delta probably spoke based on the Delta system, which sounds just like the United system.

  • emanon256

    I’m 6’1″ and can sit comfortable in 32″ pitch, however, if the person reclines it smashes into my knees and its painful the rest of the flight. 31″ pitch or less and my knees uncomfortably hit the seat if the person doesn’t recline. I think everyone’s body is different, and they fit in seats different ways.

    I do agree with you however on all the coach bashing. While it is uncomfortable for me, its where I have to sit, and I LOVE the fact that I can get from Denver to NY in 3 hours far safer than any other mode of transportation. It still amazes me every time I fly!!!

  • Bill___A

    I think we can agree that Air France shouldn’t do things like that and that if they do, it should cost them enough to serve as a disincentive to doing it again.
    I know when I buy United Plus, I actually want the “plus” service, I don’t want the buy or use the regular economy product at all. Therefore, downgrading me and refunding the extra money is not a solution I’m interested in.
    I would expect this to be even more important on an international flight.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Sirwired, my husband has exactly the reverse measurements, and always, always has a hard time with legroom. I guess it’s all the way that your body is configured. He’s 6’1″, and if the bottom half of his body were the same proportion as the top half, he’d be another 4″ taller. His knees always press against the back of the seat in front of him. That’s why I always buy him either an upgrade to whatever the airline has defined as “Comfort” or an aisle seat. If the person in front of him reclines . . . well, don’t want to start that line of discussion going.

    Me, if I’d paid for an upgrade for better legroom and didn’t get that upgrade, I’d want the money back. It’s not so much the Herculean feat of pain tolerance and endurance. It’s that I’m cheap. I pay for something, I either better get it or I want my money back. :)

  • Asiansm Dan

    I flew Business Class on B-777-200 of AF transatlantic and it’s a total deception. The seat are worn and out-dated slanted and you are on the floor every half-hour. The 2-3-2 configuration don’t make you feel you are in Business Class. The Biz Class menu is not very different from Economy menu. I never been on AF Premium Economy but it can’t be better. Surprisingly, the Business Class seats on Delta are much better for this route. My Swiss friends had swear, any airlines but AF and any Airport but CDG.

  • Jean|HolySmithereens

    Did they fly on an Air France aircraft but Delta flight number/ticket? this is when fare rules get murky, codeshares on airlines who don’t offer the exact same service. Air France offers a separate premium economy fare, while Delta does not have a proper premium economy level, just “economy comfort” or something which you can purchase for about 60-80 $ more on top of your economy fare. as much as there are EU rules/regulations bottomline is all these are still “subject to airline rule”-rule meaning convenience. while I do believe that they got the correct monetary amount back ( taxes are not part of what should be refunded, always the base fare), it should have been better explained to them to avoid the exasperation.

  • DavidYoung2

    I think the EU rules here are a little sketchy. For example, some airlines sell ‘exit row’ seats as a premium item, but still economy class. As the name implies, ‘Premium Economy’ is still economy, just a little better.

    I think AF treated the OP fairly. They refunded the upgrade fee and threw in $200 vouchers. They should also refund the OP’s upgrade fee even though it was a ‘voluntary’ downgrade because it’s reasonable she would want to sit next to her husband.

    I think the OP’s biggest complaint is the expectation, no matter how improbable, if being bumped UP to business only to then be bumped DOWN. The lesson for AF is “don’t raise expectations you can’t meet.” It Customer Service 101: “Under promise and over deliver” AF did just the opposite, and predictably the customer is unhappy.

  • TonyA_says

    Sorry but I beg to disagree with your computation.

    As I said earlier, without seeing the ticket, I won’t compute 75% of the coupon value. But since you made a guess on the Fare Basis Code used in the ticket (which I think you are correct on) then let’s compute what the reimbursement SHOULD be.

    The OP said she paid $1805 per ticket.

    Using today’s tax figures of $641.70, she would have paid about $1163 in fares. That fits right in to these 2 round-trip fare codes (one for weekday, one for weekend):

    AKXLSUS R 1100.00 @ 26AUG-16MAY
    AKWLSUS R 1160.00 @ 26AUG-16MAY

    One half round trip basis on $1163 is about $580.

    75% of $580 is $435. This amount is close to the $420 computed by Delta (which you agree with).

    But you and Delta forgot that there is a $516 YR surcharge on the round-trip fare. Half R/T basis this YR equals $283. 75% of 283 is about $212.

    The ticket cost is composed of the BASE fare plus FEES plus taxes. The BASE and FEE (YR/YQ) goes to the carrier and not the State. Therefore together they form the ticket cost referred to in Article 10.

    If you do not include the YR/YQ then Article 10 should have been written to say you will be reimbursed on the difference between the higher class BASE fare and the downgraded class BASE fare. But that is not the way the law is written. The law states “price of the ticket” and that surely needs to include the fees paid to the carrier (and pocketed by the carrier).

    That said 75% of the price of the ticket is about $628.50 each. The family did receive a CASH reimbursement of $420 and coupons worth $200.

    The compensation rule Article 7(3) states:

    The compensation referred to in paragraph 1 shall be paid in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank orders or bank cheques or, with the signed agreement of the passenger, in travel vouchers and/or other services.

    Since I don’t believe Delta or AF can produce a signed agreement showing the passengers agreeing to be reimbursed in funny money (certificates or coupons), then they still owe the passengers the difference between $629 and $420 or about $209.

    The airline should learn to play within the rules. They cannot shove down certificates if the rule says CA$H. Also the full reimbursement is due within 7 days, a deadline already missed.

    Look if I can compute the 75% reimbursement why can’t the airline? Something is wrong.

  • TonyA_says

    IMO, you are still owed money, but not the amount you think. Please read my reply to Sean Mendis.
    If you did not agree to be compensated (or reimbursed) in coupons or certificates (funny money) then the airline still owes you the corresponding amount in CASH.
    If you post the bottom part of your ticket (the part that has all the calculations), I will gladly show you how to compute the 75% of the price of the ticket on the leg affected (by the downgrade).

  • TonyA_says

    Emanon, IMO Air France/KLM will pay up if you clearly make your case. I did ask Chris Elliott’s help for a friend to get EU261 compensation. She got every penny (or Euro) she deserved because we clearly explained to the airline what she was entitled to under the law.
    You need to do the accounting yourself because the airlines use their own funny math.

    Now Delta is another story. Disaster is probably my best description (IMO only).

  • polexia_rogue

    because the airline is not motivated to abide by EUlaws. what will happen- a fine? so what.
    in order to fully address all the cases that quailfy for compensation they would have to dedicate an entire department.

    SO—the OP needed to be more accurate in her demands AND she sure as heck did not have the right to ask for all 3 tickets to be 75% compensated when she voluntarily moved so her group would not be broken up.

    I imagine Delta (or who ever has the power to give refunds) looked at her case and said “we are better off loosing this greedy woman as a customer..”

  • Lisa Rock

    This is Lisa form the article. While I appreciate everyone’s comments and views, I have a different understanding of EU 261/2004 Article 10. We fall under option C of the ruling and that calls for 75% of the ticket to be refunded, exact wording. We should also have been told our rights at Charles de Gaulle and been refunded within 7 days. This happened as we were at the gate getting ready to walk on the plane. I have had to call and e-mail and go round and round to get any information. It has been very frustrating.
    We are not trying to receive anything we are not entitled to. These are the rules the EU has set out to give passengers rights. And i do want to say that while the gate crew at Charles de Gaulle was dismissive and rude, the flight attendants on the plane were lovely. They felt so bad for us they found us 3 seats together in economy, I moved as my husband does not fly well and he was very nervous without me. They also offered to write a report for us to say we didn’t use the one premium economy seat we were left with and encouraged us to try to get back some refund for that seat too. I was very thankful for their kindness!

  • TonyA_says

    Not greedy, just misinformed, IMO.
    This is what this site is for.
    For us to give our 2 cents worth :)

  • TonyA_says

    I agree with you. This is a matter of computing the correct 75% of the applicable price of the ticket, and the form and promptness of the reimbursement. Our opinion is quite irrelevant. I’m sorry that some discussions here are just way off base.

  • TonyA_says

    No Delta aircraft is scheduled for CDG-IAH.
    There is a Delta codeshare DL8657 of the AF operated flight.
    But EU261 holds the OPERATOR responsible.
    So the onus is upon AF to make the OP whole.

  • TonyA_says

    They need to redefine the meaning of insanity – to keep on complaining about economy seating and expecting a different response :)

  • TonyA_says

    Do you mind seating in the back (with the rat feeders like me) while your dear husband sits in front?

  • emanon256

    Bizarro! I am the exact same measurement and height as your husband. Though the 36s are a little tight on me these days, I need to work on that.

  • Lisa Rock

    We were on an Air France flight for which I paid for the entire ticket so yes Air France is responsible.

  • TonyA_says

    Yes that is a fact that is not in dispute.
    Let’s concentrate on how much you need to be reimbursed.

  • Lisa Rock

    I was never anything but codrial in my asking for compensation and did so for the 3rd seat as the flight attendants on the plane offered to write us a reprt stating we did not use it as they felt so sorry for us. I was very accurate in what I asked for and would have let the case drop had I been compensated by EU rules for at least the 2 tickets. We are not greedy. We just aksed for due compensation. I would hope that AF would not want to lose our business as we fly them regularly and hope to continue. We just would like our compensation.

  • Lisa Rock

    I dont think I am misinformed. I looked at the EU laws very carefully before I asked for anything.

  • Lisa Rock

    Whatever 75% of 1804 is

  • TonyA_says

    I respectfully state my opinion – that even if you read it, you did not understand the meaning of price of ticket of the downgraded flight.
    I want to help you and take your side. However at this point you need to be quite realistic. If you want to have a semantic battle, you will have to sue AF in court. I think they will win. Good luck.

  • Sean M.

    Sorry Tony, but NEB rulings have consistently ruled in favour of the airline that YQ/YR is not considered part of the ticket price in this situation. I have personally defended airlines at NEB level and they have accepted that only base fare has to be compensated (on the logic that YQ/YR applies regardless of what class you are in).

    Not justifying it, but just saying that this is the precedent.

  • Sean M.

    You are absolutely correct that Air France failed to live up to their obligations under EU 261/2004. You should file a complaint with the DGAC, which is the designated National Enforcement Body for France, and copy both Air France and Delta. The complaint should outline exactly what Air France (and Delta, acting as their agents) failed to do and specify what restitution you require from them to withdraw the complaint. The DGAC, although toothless in terms of enforcement powers, will sit on their head with constant reminders until there is some sort of resolution, and Air France knows this. They will pay you off a reasonable amount just to avoid this.

    Contact details for DGAC can be found at

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Nope. Sometimes a little away time is good for both of us!

    And I know how to dispatch the rats before they can feed on me. :)

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Don’t we all? :)

  • TonyA_says

    That’s the whole point – it is NOT RIGHT !!!
    Airlines can load up YQ/YR and get away with a lot of sh*t.
    If we accept your logic then I accept the flyertalk fuel dump logic also.
    Neither is fair.

  • rwm

    I’m 5′-10″, so the legroom doesn’t bother me too much, unless the pitch is less than 32″. What does bother me the most is the seat width. I’m slightly broad shouldered, and 17″ is just ridiculous. I find it offensive to sit shoulder to shoulder and knee to knee, touching a stranger for an 11 hour flight.

  • Lisa Rock

    We haven’t agreed to anything. The EU rule say of ticket not just part. I their response to Mr Elliott on our behalf they said it was not a different class basically just a better seat.

  • TonyA_says

    Lisa, let me be blunt and put it this way – you are simply wrong.

    Even on the kindest and most lenient computation. the airline only owes you a total of no more than $630 in my opinion.
    Mr. Mendis, someone who represents airlines, said I am wrong and surcharges are not part of the price of the ticket. If he is correct, then the airlines owe you less than the above amount.
    In other words, my computation is already generous in your favor.
    You already received $420 CASH and $200 worth of certificates on behalf of Air France for each passenger involuntarily downgraded. You may argue that the certificate(s) is worthless and that it should be in form of CASH. But please listen carefully – you are already ahead of most victims of unpaid EU261 claims. If I were you, I would consider this a closed case. You have collected $620 worth of cash and certificates. Please don’t be too greedy. Respectfully,

  • LFH0

    To me it seems that there are at least two ambiguities in the regulation as written, but I’m not sure if they have been cleared up in court decisions.

    First, Article 10 refers to a “class,” but what constitutes a “class” is not defined in the regulation. Of course, the carriers will claim in situations like this that “class” has an expansive meaning, and passengers will claim the opposite. Without reviewing the administrative history of the regulation, it is not immediately clear if the intent of the article is compensate passengers for a diminution in service and comfort, compensation for having a fare basis changed, or something else. I think what is fair is that the passenger is entitled to the type of accommodation reserved, and that anything less is compensable . . . but that’s not what the regulation say.

    Second, Article 2 defines a “ticket” (the basis upon which compensation under Article 10 is based) as a document (or its electronic equivalent) giving entitlement to transportation. The compensation is based on a percentage of the “price of the ticket.” I think the question here is whether a particular document constitutes a single ticket, or multiple tickets. The carriers, of course, will argue that the price of the ticket is the allocated price of a single segment or flight coupon, while passengers will argue that the price of the ticket is the entire booklet of flight coupons. I think the best way to apply the concept is to observe what can be purchased individually at a given rate, as compared to what can be purchased only by buying an entire package of individual flights. For example, if A to B costs $100, and B to C costs $100, but A to C costs $125, then I think that a ticket which is A-B-C (and for which the passenger pays $125) is a single ticket whose price is $125. On the other hand, if A to C costs $200, then I think that a ticket which is A-B-C (and for which the passenger pays $200) is two separate tickets, each of which has a price of $100.

  • TonyA_says

    EU261 has more holes than Swiss cheese.
    Holes make good living for lawyers.
    The practical question is HOW can a traveler use it to get compensation or reimbursement.
    Otherwise (if they can’t get money out of it) EU261 is a complete waste of time for travelers.

    All that said, my final answer to the OP is that while what she got ain’t perfect, it is close enough to what I think she can get (maximum) by arguing her case in court. That is only my opinion.


    our friends were downgraded from paid business to economy at the gate as they were boarding..usairways phila to madrid (plane swap with no first class so first into business then business = coach) they were offered $200 /a drink coupon and headphones tat sucked???<<<

  • Harry

    No big surprise here: AF, arguably, is one of the worst airliners in Europe (in contrast with their sister KLM which is one of the best). Unfortunately, I have to fly very often with AF (that often that I’m one of their platinum frequent flyers), I have filed dozens of complains about practically anything and that anything keeps on repeating. From the serious to the funny ones:
    – they don’t have a clue what on board safety is. Whenever possible, I get to sit on the emergency exit raw, aisle side, that is more comfortable. In around 96% of the flights, some member of the cabin crew comes and talks only to the person sitting by the window and only in French. How many problems do you see here? I asked one of them once: “excuse me but what would happen if that person passes out during an emergency landing and your door gets blocked? wouldn’t your life depend on me doing something?” She didn’t really got it because (naturally, after asking me “monsieur, parlez vous Francais?” and me replying why would I do that in an international flight) she asked if I wanted her to explain to me the procedure…..
    – you enter the plane holding a Dutch newspaper, a Greek newspaper, a US magazine, you great them in English and they respond in French. Well, there are so many languages in Europe but only AF insists in speaking their own language in their international flights
    – I was today a miserable AF premium economy passenger within Europe. The business class was practicaly empty. The premium economy shares the same cabin with the business class. All seats in premium economy were fully occupied. I asked them if I could please move to an empty seat in an empty raw just to have some space. Obviously that request was rejected (both by the flight attendant and the purser). Other European airliners (incl. KLM which is in the same group) would most likely have upgraded me for free (given my FF status) but not AF (I’m extremely happy I’m returning back with KLM and not AF)
    – Vegetarian dishes with butter on the side but no bread and responses varying from a purser who can’t see what’s wrong in the picture to “everything is included there. there’s no problem with your dinner”

    If AF wishes to challenge any of the above, I’m more than happy to disclose my details off-line and waive any confidentiality agreement so that they can share all my written complains for the last couple of years.

  • emanon256

    Some of the airbuses are 18″ and 19″ wide, I LOVE those seats!! I wish all seats were like that. My neighbor who is a pilot on UA said they are taking the current seats out of the airbusses which are 18″ wide, and replacing them with 17″ wide seats. I asked why on earth would they put in narrower seats when the plane can accommodate wider ones, and he said to save on weight, which saves fuel costs.

  • Wayne Roccaforte

    This is Lisa again. Air France just sent us an e-mail to let us know weren’t downgraded, we were “reseated” and that they are committed to customer service and they hope will use them again in the future.

  • Cybrsk8r

    I’m more disturbed that an airline can sell you an upgraded seat and then arbitrarily decide they’re going to give it to someone else. That’s like ordering a new car, waiting two months to get it, and then getting to the dealership to find they sold your car to someone else. I’m really surprised AF didn’t try to pull the big stall hoping the OP would just go away.

  • Poley King

    I’m curious why Delta’s name was mentioned? I didn’t think you could buy premium economy on AF through Delta?

  • TonyA_says

    Delta represents AF/KLM in the USA for most operational issues. In fact all 3 have a joint-venture over the Atlantic. So think of them as one airline with one pocket.

    Delta sells AF premium economy on DL codeshared flights at the same price as AF (since they have a joint venture). For example the AF A booking class Fare Basis codes are W in DL.

  • TonyA_says

    You know what is missing in this story? Why was Premium Economy oversold in the first place; and why was there space in Economy?

    I have read in different places suggesting the AF personnel are known to upgrade friends and family ahead of ordinary passengers.

    Also, if you remember we discussed here last year, AF has this outbound telemarketing upsell campaign where they sell the next cabin up for CASH.

    In my opinion, maybe that is how the OP and her group got screwed. Maybe the airline either sold their seats for extra cash or someone gave it to special people. Repeat, this is only my opinion.

    You are a smart person. Compute the upsell extra revenue then compare it to the potential (if any) EU261 reimbursement they will really pay. If the upsell revenue is higher, then the airline has the incentive to upsell and downgrade the original holder of the seat.

    If only a small percentage of the victims complain or if you can get away with just giving $200 in coupons (kaching more sales in the future if they intend to use it) then you can imagine the moral hazard this causes.

  • Asiansm Dan

    The AF Business Class Cabin is designed and prioritized to Non-Rev-AF-Personnel-Passengers. Some frenchmen forgot Napoleon lost the Waterloo battle in 1815 and French is no longer the universal language since. Some AF crew members thought the plane alley is a fashion catwalk.

  • Poley King

    I was looking under Cabin Select drop down not realizing the option was under Fare Class

  • TonyA_says

    VERY Good point!
    Strictly speaking you are buying a FARE that allows you to get a seat at a particular BOOKING CLASS CODE. And, that booking class code happens to be in a particular cabin.
    For AF I believe booking codes A / W / S are in the Premium Economy Cabin.

  • bpepy

    This EXACT thing happened to us many years ago (a car we ordered and waited to was sold to someone else, probably for more money). We vowed to never buy another Ford, and we never have!

  • EdB

    Blame Ford for the improper actions of an independent dealer. Makes sense to me.

  • Guest

    Wasn’t that the trick one airline used to play, where they would advertise a fare for $1 but then charge all these fees so in the end the fare was about the same as everyone else? That was one of the reasons behind the new rules about showing fares. And if the refund wasn’t based on the entire ticket price, why wouldn’t the airlines just sell the ticket for $1 and then put the real cost in fees, but showing and advertising the total cost so you don’t see the fare itself was only a dollar. Then in cases like this, the airline could just say, “So sorry. Here is your 75% refund” and hand you 3 quarters.

  • TonyA_says

    Damn right! I bet if we asked the legislators that wrote the law, they would agree with the layman’s understanding of price of ticket. That is why they wrote price of ticket and not base fare, or upgrade cost differential, etc.

  • Mel65


  • emanon256

    In my experience, the most common reason for this type of downgrade is an equipment swap. It looks like Air France often flies their 777 on that route and one configuration has 28 seats in Premium Economy, while the other has 24. It was likely an aircraft substitution that put them in an oversell situation. Also, if a seat gets damaged, such as stuck in a recline position, they will put it out of service and downgrade someone.

    I have also seen situations where a None Rev Must Ride shows up last minute and their contract requires they be flown in a specific class and then they have to bump a revenue pax.

    That said, your arguments are just as valid. Airlines seem to upgrade friends and employees far to often, but usually that when there is space, and they upgrade them ahead of people who used miles or paid for an upgrade and were wait-listed. That actually hurts the companies bottom dollar. I would also not put it past them to over sell with the buy ups and bump whomever was the cheapest. The fact that they didn’t tell them in advance of boarding makes me think something nefarious went on.

  • Lindabator

    because the “classes” onboard are first, business and economy (economy plus are just larger seats WITHIN economy)

  • Lindabator

    But if there is a medical reason, or a family travelling together, they will do this.

  • Lindabator

    Actually – EU only recognizes 1st, business and economy – regardless of whether they sit you in a different row, or segment of the craft.

  • naoma

    Has everyone seen the furor over the dog in the aisle on the plane (relieving himself — the worst kind) and people getting ill?. Wonder what compensation they will get? Dog was a supposedly a “service dog.” But, those I.D. “saddles” can be purchased on line.