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Air France Review and a Disturbing Fact Uncovered

Updated on September 6, 2016
My Bell profile image

As a trained journalist and avid traveler, Marcelle enjoys writing articles to inform and inspire fellow travelers.

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This article began as a review of my experience flying economy class with Air France on a recent trip from the United States to Europe. As I researched the airline, I found a disturbing fact about Europe’s largest airline carrier. Air France transports live monkeys to laboratories around the world.

This find originally shifted the content of this article. Instead, to be fair, I have kept my review intact as recorded during and immediately after my Air France economy flight. I assessed my experience and graded my flight prior to gathering the knowledge that Air France ferries monkeys to labs. Detailed information about the airline’s monkey business can be found later in this article.

View of French countryside prior to landing
View of French countryside prior to landing | Source

My Air France Flight Review

As an army brat, I have moved and traveled frequently to multiple countries. I am an avid and passionate traveler, having flown many transatlantic flights to Europe and the Caribbean. This was not my first time on Air France but it was my first in a long time with this airline. Here are some quick facts setting up my flight experience:

  • Flight from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport
  • 747 Aircraft
  • Approximately an eight hour flight
  • Departed early evening a few minutes late
  • Landed in the morning approximately on time
  • Vegetarian meal option ordered

The scorecard below evaluates my flight experience in a grading format. Detailed experiences are listed below the table.

Air France Economy Class Flight Review

 
 
Legroom
D
Overall Seat Comfort
C
Food
B
In-Flight Entertainment
A
Service
A -
Overall Grade
C +

Legroom on Air France

We were seated in a pair of seats directly behind the exit row in the middle of the airplane (on the bottom “deck” of the 747). My husband and I are both on the taller side but thin, so although we typically find the seat size adequate, the legroom is almost always an issue. The legroom on this Air France flight, however, was easily the tightest we have experienced. There was almost zero space between where my knees ended and the seatback began. All the airlines have challenges with legroom but our situation on Air France was among the worst I have experienced.

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Seat Comfort on Air France

The seat comfort on our Air France flight was adequate. Of course, we inflated our expectations since it was a long haul on a classic double-decker, jumbo 747 aircraft. There were three notable characteristics about our seats. First, the seats were exceptionally thin, almost “flimsy” looking and feeling. Secondly, they seemed exceptionally narrow. It was difficult to navigate elbows when eating and would have been impossible had we been seated in a three-person row. Finally, an impressive entertainment screen was mounted into the back of each seat.

Food on Air France

I highly recommend ordering the “vegetarian” meal or any of the other special meals offered on an airline for two good reasons. The flight attendants serve the special meals first so you get your meal early and piping hot. Secondly, not as many passengers order a special meal so the quantity prepared is exceptionally smaller compared to the mass quantities of standard meals that are prepared in assembly line fashion. This will not guarantee better quality but in our case, it did.

  • Dinner: We feasted on good vegetarian spinach lasagna for dinner with complimentary, but very basic, red wine (Merlot or Syrah).
  • Snacks: The flight attendants came around with ice cream sandwiches after dinner, which we did not have, and refilled wine glasses. The beverage cart made a few passes.
  • Breakfast: Near the end of the flight, our breakfast served up a light fruited yogurt, mixed fruit, a small croissant, and bread with jam. Orange juice came with the meal and coffee was also served along with the beverage cart options.

In-flight entertainment screen
In-flight entertainment screen | Source

In-Flight Entertainment on Air France

Despite the lack of legroom and somewhat uncomfortable seat, the on-board “entertainment” was top notch. Those screens embedded into the seat backs offered hours of entertainment to pass the time and help us forget about the cramped quarters.

The in-flight system offered hundreds of current and retro movies, television sitcoms, news programs, travel programs, cartoons, music videos, and games. A wellness section presented a relaxation series to “guide you through a restful flight.” You could track your flight through an interactive map and even download airport maps. You could search through the various options in a host of languages including: French, English, German, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, and Portuguese. A USB hookup allowed you to charge up your electronics in flight.

Service on Air France

Good service made our flight more enjoyable. The flight attendants were friendly, prompt, and helpful. They spent time talking with passengers and were always available. A pillow and blanket donned every seat, and amenity kits were passed out that included comfortable headphones, a sleep mask, and moist towels. All instructions were announced in both French and English. You could request assistance through the video system in the seat back.

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Source

Shocking Monkey Business

Air France maintains the unique status as the only remaining passenger airline to transport live monkeys to research labs around the world. Dr. Jane Goodall, considered the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, recently urged Air France to discontinue shipping these primates to medical research labs in England, the United States, and other parts of the world.

In a letter to the airline’s chief executive, Goodall explains that the monkeys that Air France transports “have been traumatically captured in the jungle” or are “forced to breed at horrendous monkey farms.” In the letter, Goodall cites a recent expose from a supplier serviced by the airline that shows baby monkeys “being roughly ripped from their mothers and crudely tattooed for identification while fully conscious.”1

Unfriendly Skies

Animal Defenders International, a non-profit animal lobbying organization, says that the stress endured by primates during their airline travel can have a tremendous effect on their well-being. Here, the organization describes the experience for the transported primates:2

The first leg of a typical journey is from the local breeding centre to the nearest international airport. The primates are locked up in crates with individual compartments typically measuring between 0.05 and 0.1 meters. Very often, primates are brought to the airport 12-20 hours prior to aircraft loading to allow time for packing and paperwork processing. Flight times depend on the distance being covered and the availability of direct routes.

The journey time from the UK or a Europe-based airport to the primates’ final destination, which normally commences after a four hour wait for the animals to be passed through customs, lasts at least 28 hours and in some cases 70 hours or more.

Air France defends its monkey transportation claiming it is a “highly supervised activity” and that is important to medical research. The airline says it complies with regulations and has strict standards to ensure the animals have optimal conditions of transport.3

Source

Primates in Labs

The issue of experimenting on primates in medical research labs is a controversial one. Researchers have said that the many similarities these animals hold to humans makes them ideal research subjects but it’s exactly this fact that makes the issue an ethical dilemma.

Consider a National Institute of Health (NIH) study where monkeys were used to model environmental risk factors associated with human mental illness. Baby rhesus monkeys were subject to various disturbing experiences including being separated from their mothers shortly after birth, assessing how the monkeys responded when their mothers were sedated and lost consciousness, and being intentional startled with loud noises. The baby monkeys were also subjected to spinal taps and intracranial medications.

The National Institute of Health
The National Institute of Health | Source

Video clips from these experiments obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), include a study of the fright response in infants. A distressed baby monkey is shown alone in a tiny mesh “startle chamber”, while being exposed to loud and sudden noise.4

Recently, the National Institute of Health has started to back away from using primates, specifically chimpanzees, in its research studies. An NIH advisory panel that made the recommendation said the agency should “emphasize the development and refinement of other approaches, especially alternative animal models.”5

Scientific advances in recent years have allowed for alternate methods of research. This is a positive step but much more needs to be done to eliminate lab studies on primates.

Will you fly on Air France knowing that the airline ships live monkeys to labs?

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Choosing Not to Fly Air France

The fact remains that Air France is the solo passenger airline still transporting these primates. All other major passenger airlines have either never been involved or have abandoned the business of ferrying monkeys to labs. Often the business was abandoned due to consumer pressure.

Regardless of where you stand on this ethical issue, knowledge about what a company you patron is involved in is important. Passengers that choose to fly with Air France might unknowingly be sharing their flight with monkeys trapped in the cargo space below. As a consumer, it is your decision to indirectly support this business with your ticket purchase or not.

Until Air France abandons its monkey shipping business, I choose to no longer fly with this airline.

What Can Consumers Do?

  1. Choose not to fly on Air France until they abandon shipping primates.
  2. Use word-of-mouth and social media to inform others about the truth. You can share this story easily using the links listed above for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google +.
  3. Let Air France know that you would like them to stop shipping primates in their airplanes. You can contact corporate customer service following this link.

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Sources

1 "Jane Urges Air France to End Their Part in Shipping Live Primates." The Jane Goodall Institute. The Jane Goodall Institute, 13 May 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2015. <http://www.janegoodall.org/blogs/jane-urges-air-france-end-their-part-shipping-live-primates>.

2 "The Transportation of Primates for Research." Animal Defenders International. Animal Defenders International, 5 Sept. 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2015. <http://www.ad-international.org/adi_usa/go.php?id=3756&ssi=0>.

3 Meikle, James. "Jane Goodall and Peter Gabriel Urge Air France to Stop Ferrying Lab Monkeys." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 20 May 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/may/20/jane-goodall-peter-gabriel-air-france-stop-monkeys-transport>.

4 Ferger, Jessica. "Questions Raised about Mental Health Studies on Baby Monkeys at NIH Labs." CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 8 Sept. 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2015. <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mental-health-experiments-on-baby-monkeys-at-federal-nih-labs/>.

5 Fine Maron, Dina. "NIH Will Curb Research on Chimps." Scientific American. Nature America, Inc., 26 June 2013. Web. 18 Feb. 2015. <http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nih-curb-research-on-chimp/>.

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    • My Bell profile image
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      Marcelle Bell 2 years ago

      Thanks ArtDiva and Robert for your comments! Yes, I read a similar article too. I guess Air France is on smaller side for legroom - it sure seemed that way. You would think they would spread it out a little more for their larger planes that take overseas flights. There are definitely some animal rights groups putting pressure on the airline. I think consumers will need to as well to help push that change along. I just posted contact information for the company. It's also good to share this news about the airline. Consumers have lots of power with their wallets.

    • My Bell profile image
      Author

      Marcelle Bell 2 years ago

      Thank you, pstraubie48, for helping to get the message out about all of this. My heart broke too when I stumbled upon the information for this article. I'm so glad that I decided to research Air France before writing initially what was just going to be a flight review.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 2 years ago

      Interesting, thank you.

    • My Bell profile image
      Author

      Marcelle Bell 2 years ago

      Thank you, Dip. Wow - you are definitely a world traveler. I appreciate your insight.

    • profile image

      ArtDiva 2 years ago

      Recently read an article about the new airline seating designs to pack more people on planes, but from what I'm reading here and an experience of my own last year, seating may already be in place, or will be even tighter. For a trip abroad, this would be very uncomfortable whether tall, or not. As far as monkey transport by this airline, or any other, this saddens me and hopefully a discontinued practice with pressure from animal rights groups. Thank you for sharing this information.

    • My Bell profile image
      Author

      Marcelle Bell 2 years ago

      Thank you, Kevvo and Flourish for your kind comments. Thank you for sharing, Flourish, as it is so important to get the word out. I've posted all over to let people know.

    • My Bell profile image
      Author

      Marcelle Bell 2 years ago

      Robert - I'm not sure about he airline fares as they fluctuate so frequently. When we booked our tickets, we found their prices to be about the same as other airlines but booked with Air France to fly in the 747, assuming it would be an enjoyable flight experience. We had no idea about their business of shipping monkeys at that point. Thank for your comments!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      This is such important information for us to know. It is heart breaking to know that these precious creatures are enduring even more horrendous treatment than we already have been made aware of.

      thank you for caring enough to share...perhaps the airline will discontinue this practice.

      Angels are on the way to you and to all of those precious creatures ps

      Voted up +++ and shared g+ and tweeted

    • Dip Mtra profile image

      Dip Mtra 2 years ago from World Citizen

      I have flown KLM, Emirates, British Airways, Etihad, Air France, and many others. I would rate Emirates as the best. Guess I will never fly Air France....

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      I will never fly Air France again. Sharing, pinning. Terrible information but it is so important you uncovered and are sharing this.

    • KevvoDeverson profile image

      Kevin Deverson 2 years ago from Leyland, UK

      Interesting thanks for sharing

    • My Bell profile image
      Author

      Marcelle Bell 2 years ago

      Thank you, Melissa and Fran for your kind comments! Looks like Air France was already on your bad list, Fran. Now this will just be one more reason to throw your business elsewhere.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 2 years ago

      Thank you. Does Air France have lower fares than other airlines? It seems the lack of leg room and transporting the primates would give them a profit advantage over other airlines.

    • My Bell profile image
      Author

      Marcelle Bell 2 years ago

      Thank you, Bill, for your comments. I was also disturbed when I found out the information as I did my research. I wanted to make sure to get the word out so consumers can make an informed decision.

    • FreakFran profile image

      Francine Oliveira 2 years ago from Minas Gerais, Brasil

      I'm shocked! Thank you for this information and I believe it's important for everyone to know ab0ut this!

      It's been 5 years since I flew with Air France and my luggage arrived torn and I had to wait a month to hear from them after complaining.

      I will definitely prefer any other company in the future!

    • Melissa Orourke profile image

      Melissa Orourke 2 years ago from Roatán, Islas De La Bahia, Honduras

      Great to hear!

    • My Bell profile image
      Author

      Marcelle Bell 2 years ago

      So nice to hear from a former flight attendant, Melissa. Thank you for your comments and for helping to get the word out on Facebook. I think it's important to let travelers know so they can make an informed decision about purchasing a flight. I am going to look up the information to contact Air France and post it in this article.

    • My Bell profile image
      Author

      Marcelle Bell 2 years ago

      Thank you for your comments, Cynthia. I also will not fly Air France now. I wish I had known before my flight.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Marcelle. We just recently flew Air France to Paris and I have to admit I am upset and disturbed that this airline is ferrying monkeys to labs around the world. I will certainly think twice before flying Air France again. How can humans be so cruel? Thank you for this information which I was unaware of.

    • Melissa Orourke profile image

      Melissa Orourke 2 years ago from Roatán, Islas De La Bahia, Honduras

      Thank you for this information! As a former Flight Attendant, I will be posting this info. on Facebook today! Many of us are animal lovers, I won't be giving Air France any business after knowing this!

      I urge you to please write Air France with your feelings. Please be sure though to put in a positive comment for your flight crew! Don't forget to include the date, and Flight Number you traveled on. Thank you again for bringing this to light. I don't support animal testing in any way!

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image

      Cynthia Hoover 2 years ago from Newton, West Virginia

      Thank you for this article and bringing the issues with the trafficing of lab monkeys to light. I for one will never use this airline!