Unhappy visitors fight French tour operators

France saw a whopping 70 percent jump last year in the number of tourists who asked mediators to settle a fight with an airline or tour operator. But this may actually be good news for people coming to the world’s most visited country.

Unhappy visitors fight French tour operators
Angry French tourists are taking airlines and tour operators to mediation. Photo: Lionel Buenaventure/AFP

France draws about 83 million foreign tourists per year, but not all of them head home with Eiffel Tower key chain and good memories.

More than 1,400 tourists asked a French mediation service in 2013 to sort out the battle they were having with an airline or tour operator, which was a 70 percent hike over the number who requested help in 2012.

Lost baggage, cancelled excursions, planes that arrived late or not at all, were all sources of anger for visitors who demanded compensation, but until recently had to go it alone or take legal action.

The requests all went to the tourism-industry sponsored Mediation Tourisme et Voyage (MTV), which brings in a third party to settle disputes between travelers and the service provider, according to the annual report from MTV.

The service’s newness likely explains the explosion in demand. Last year was only the second one in business for the MTV, which said visitors are becoming progressively more aware this option exists.

In 2013 the chief mediator Jean-Pierre Teyssier got 1,413 referrals and ended up taking on about 70 percent of the cases. He offered up a solution to the disputing parties in 613 cases and issued 460 rulings.

For 83.5 percent of cases the mediation was successful, in that both sides accepted his solution. According to the annual report, people see the process “as an impartial and effective means to amicably settle their complaints.”  

Not surprisingly for any traveler stranded by a cancelled flight, most of disputes–46 percent–dealt with airline troubles. The report said most of those cases had to do with late or canceled flights.

Online customer service, or lack thereof, was also a source of many cases. Almost two in three of the complaints, 62 percent, came from people that made their travel arrangements online.   

Since the autumn Paris Airport authority and low cost carrier Easy Jet joined the cooperative that works with the MTV. France’s national union of travel agents, Syndicats National des Agents de Vouyage, was already part of program.

The MTV can trace its roots back to the 2010 volcano eruption in Iceland that kept European flights on the ground for weeks, leaving a tangled mess of angry travelers in its wake.

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