Camp beds vs hotel: Pax questions Air France’s treatment of economy passengers

IndyLife Twitter / PuiuPrecup /

An Air France passenger is questioning why the airline made economy passengers camp out at an airport during a 24-hour delay while business class travelers were checked into a hotel.

Flight AF499 was scheduled to fly from Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) in the Caribbean island of St. Martin to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) on December 9, 2023.

However, due to unfavorable headwinds, the A330 aircraft flew to Pointe-a-Pitre International Airport (PTP) on the island of Guadeloupe for refueling.

What initially would have been just a 90-minute delay stretched overnight because of electronic issues with the 22-year old aircraft.

One passenger on the flight, identified as ‘Laura’, told The Independent that the flight captain said passengers would be sorted with hotel accommodation overnight.

However, Laura said that only business class passengers were disembarked from the aircraft and were sent to hotels. She said that the remaining passengers, including herself, were sent to the airport terminal where they were each given camping beds and a bottle of water as their overnight provision.

“There were elderly people and people with children, all left with no food, no information and camp beds,” Laura told The Independent.

According to Laura, Air France advised them that the hotel was fully booked. However, this was proven wrong when other passengers tried to book overnight rooms on their own.

A spokesperson for the airline told The Independent: “At the time of the incident, Pointe-a-Pitre airport staff were faced with an unexpected number of passengers needing assistance due to the cancellation of the Air France flight.”

“To manage the situation, they did their utmost to find accommodation for all the passengers on board. Once hotel accommodation was arranged for those who required assistance and vulnerable passengers, the rest of the limited allocation of rooms went to some business-class passengers,” the spokesperson added.

According to European air passenger rights, if a passenger arrives at their destination with more than three hours’ delay, they are entitled to compensation unless the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances. 

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