Defi Diva – Viva la Air France!

by Amber, aka Defi Diva

The notion of traveling to the south of France in the spring time seems all romantic and picturesque until, that is, you check into the airline ticket counter with 2 boards, a sail bag, 2 suitcases, and a back pack.  “Just go with the flow… Just go with the flow…ooohhhhmmmm….”, I kept saying to myself.  It didn’t help this time either… I called a porter to help me with the bags. Once inside, I checked in at the ticket kiosk and then made my way to the front of the checked baggage line.  At the counter the ticket lady greeted me with a smile. “Oh my are those surf boards?! How exciting!”  “Yes ma’am, I’m going to a race in France.” (I kept the emphasis on the word “race”, hoping that she might think I’m an important sports icon or something, rather than a lowly… over 29 year old amateur  seeking a little windsurfing adventure. After all sports icons always get the bags accepted!)  Surprisingly she didn’t balk or bat an eye. She weighed all my luggage and then had the boards put on a special cart off to the side since they were too big for the conveyor. She then directed me to a separate counter to pay for my “excess” baggage.

I spent the next two hours standing at the “excess fee” charge counter.  First there was the panic by the Senior Ticketing Supervisor, “Your baggage exceeds our 158 cm limit for width plus length plus height! It is not possible to accept them.”  “No ma’am, I sent the dimensions and estimated weights to the Paris corporate office when I booked the flight, they approved it.  Surfboards are typically more than 158 cm in length alone. There are notes in my reservation to confirm this.”  “Let me go verify…  Yes, I’m sorry, you were correct. I apologize about that mistake.  But now there is another problem, TSA will not accept the baggage because it doesn’t fit in their scanners!”  I consoled her, “TSA can run a special detector on the equipment and do a manual inspection, they do it all the time when they have concerns about baggage. It usually isn’t a problem, but does take a bit more time.”  Warily she replied, “Ok, let me confirm with them first though. Please wait here in case there
are questions, we want this to go as smoothly as possible!”  So I waited………………… At about one hour before the flight, she finally came back with a smile on her face. “Yes the bags are checked and ready to go! Now how would you like to pay for the excess baggage fee of $525, cash or credit card?”  …. gulp….

The flight over was only partially full, which was nice, and very smooth. The plane landed at 6am at Charles De Gaul Airport in Paris. I had a 4 hour layover, which I had asked for intentionally to ensure I had enough time to make it through all their inspection and customs requirements.  It proved to be plenty of time, so I had a nice cup of coffee and my first Pain du Chocolat of the trip!   I stood at the window at my gate hoping to catch a glimps of my boards. I was rewarded when 15 minutes before my flight they went whisking by on the tops of two luggage transport vehicles. A smile came to my face along with an internal “YESSS!!” and a mental “Snoopy dance”.  I was too tired to do anything overt and expected that if I did, a security presence would seek me out rather quickly.

The second flight was equally uneventful. I arrived in Toulouse a little before noon.   I decided to check in to get my car before collecting my luggage. The airport was easily navigated, and I found my rental car counter (Hertz) quickly. “Bonjour Madam! [something more in French that seem to allude to “how can I help you”].  “J’ai une rezervation….” Luckily she spoke English because that is about where my French ended. In usual “rental car fashion”, they did not have the model I had reserved (a mini van), and some how in my delusional fatigued state, I ended up with a huge (by US AND European standards) Mercedes Benz “Thingy”. “Now Madam, how would you like to pay for your extra fees of 25 euro a day, cash or credit card?”  ….gulp…

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