An Ode to French Design

I've mentioned before that I really hate Air France.

This week, I had to fly down to Lisbon for a meeting - living as I do in the wild north of England, there are no direct flights for me to take. So I ended up on Air France, connecting through Paris, there and back.

I'm not a complete idiot - I figured I'd avoid checking my bags at all costs, and avoid the worst of the pain. Not too bad. When I got to the airport in Manchester, the self-service check-in machine said "You cannot check in here. Go to the desk, you filthy non-French person." Which was an inconvenience, but not too big a deal.

Coming back, I found another Air France self check-in machine at the Lisbon airport. I thought that maybe this one would be a little less hostile, so I gave it a go. To my pleasant surprise, it printed me out a card and told me I was now checked in. It also said that I didn't have a seat assigned at this point and should 'go to the meeting point' for seat assignment.

Meeting point? I figured that maybe this was the Portugo-French translation for 'Gate'. Maybe. So I took my card and headed for the gate. At the security checkpoint, Portugese Guard #1 shook his head at me and the pathetic little card I received from the Air France machine.

PG#1: That is not a correct boarding card.
Me: But I got it from the boarding card machine...
PG#1: That is not a correct boarding card.
Me: It came out of the boarding card slot in the boarding card machine...
PG#1: Pointing at the words printed in 4 point font on the bottom left corner of the card which read 'NOT VALID FOR BOARDING' That is not a correct boarding card.

Oops. Yeah. Look at that.

I took my not-a-boarding-card back to the check-in desk and waited in line. (Isn't the whole point of a self-service check-in machine to remove the need to go to the check-in desk?) Once I got to the desk, I handed the not-a-boarding-card to the nice lady behind the desk, and said 'Your self check-in boarding card maker made me a not-a-boarding-card,' to which the nice lady behind the desk made one of those scrunched up faces which said 'why did you have to show up on my shift?'

It soon became apparent that she was genuinely confused by the not-a-boarding-card. She had to ask her two colleagues behind the desk what to make of it, and soon, I was single handedly preventing all passengers headed to Charles de Galle airport on that flight from checking in, as all of the checker-inners were all trying to sort out what my not-a-boarding-card meant.

Need to piss off a bunch of foreigners in a strange country without even trying? I'm your man.

After a fifteen minute consultation, they figured out that the self service check in machine had been out of boarding card paper, so it had printed me a not-a-boarding-card instead.

That's right. That means someone purposely designed machine to take two different kinds of paper: your normal boarding cards, and then an additional but different paper stock which was to be used to print out not-a-boarding-cards, just in case the other paper ran out. That's as oppossed to, oh, I don't know, just putting extra boarding card paper in there in the first place.

I can only imagine that this is directly tied to some Franco-employment scheme along the same lines as their latest good idea.

And yes - I did, eventually, get a real boarding card. But the guy behind me kicked my seat all the way to Paris.