Air Canada

… come fly with me

Let me just get up here on my little soap box for a second, I have a story to share…

Back in August, Aisha and I decided to make plans for a fall vacation to Turks and Caicos. It took some time, but we found a couple of hotels, and managed to get an okay flight through… Air Canada Vacations.

The price was awful, but it was on-par with what we saw from other airlines, and it was direct.

And then we found out about the two hurricanes that were going to hit the islands, one after another. It turned out that our hotels were fine, but there were a couple of days where we wondered what was going to happen.

Jump ahead a couple of weeks, and I get a call from my travel agent who has some unhappy news. Air Canada Vacations decided to cancel our flight, and they were not going to offer us any alternatives. The only thing he said he could do was book us on a later flight, and because November is the start of high season, that would mean it would cost another $400, each person.

Now, am I the only one who thinks this is nothing short of extortion? I can understand that the hurricane may have meant that some flights were harder to fill, but if Air Canada Vacations was going to cancel the flight, does that not mean it’s their obligation to make sure all their customers are taken care of? Because charging me another $400 for a flight that’s also weeks later than I had planned is not what I call good customer service.

In response, I wrote Air Canada Vacations an email explaining my problems, and telling them in no uncertain terms that I will never fly with them, or Air Canada in general, again. I’m perfectly happy to fly West Jet when I have to fly, or take Via Rail if I have the time.

Adding insult to injury today was the official response they sent me…

First of all, thank you for telling us how you feel and also for mentioning your understanding of the reason for which flights to Turks & Caicos were cancelled for the next few weeks, the cancellation being a direct consequence of the aftermath of Tropical Storm Hanna.

As I explained, tariff may vary on a daily basis due to several factors, which is why tariff to travel to Turks & Caicos on November 1 differs from the departure of October 18. And as I also mentioned to you, the flight cancellation occurred as a result of the unforeseen situation of Tropical Storm Hanna.

Thank you again, Mr. Powell, for sharing your experience. We trust you future travels with Air Canada Vacations will be a success.

What a crock. And did she even read my letter explaining that I would never fly with Air Canada again?

I’m just really peeved that a company would act this way towards customers who depend on them. I’m even more peeved that the response I got didn’t even address my core concerns that customer service with the company has failed beyond recovery. And when the industry at large is facing tough times, why wouldn’t they want to make customers happy?

I am positive lots of you have horror stories about Air Canada, and the airline industry overall, so feel free to comment away and help me celebrate my new Air Canada-free lifestyle. Just try to keep the language in the good old PG zone, okay?

…Air Canada sucks.

About The Author

W. Andrew Powell

W. Andrew Powell lives, sleeps, eats, and breaths movies and entertainment. Since launching The GATE in 1999 Andrew has enjoyed being a pest to any publicist who would return his calls. In his "spare time," Andrew is also an avid photographer, and writes about leisure travel and hotels around the world.

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10 Responses

  1. Bob Harvey

    Similar thing happened to us. We were in Provo and AC said that they could not reach us so they would not arrange for a flight back after the Hurricanes. Basically, they said that they tried to reach us on Monday morning and because I did not get back to them immediately, that they would not arrange for a return flight.

    I caught the AC reps phone number by call display on my cell and called them from Provo about five times explaining that this was not fair and that I would complain to the aviation authorities in Canada.

    After numerous attempts to deflect my arguments they finallly complied with a return ticket.

    What disturbed me most was that they actually thought that I would accept their decision and that it took five calls and extreme persistence to get them to fly us back to Toronto.

    An on line compaign that is linked to their dispute dept. with a you tube clip would be appropriate for them to understand that they must be consistent with handling both price and problem issues.

  2. kl

    Sorry, but you had already gone ahead and blown them off (“… I would never fly with Air Canada again.”) Anyone in your situation would not be happy, but that is the nature of the air transportation business. I don’t know if any insurance you bought would cover such a situation either, but that would be your next step to check. Good luck.

  3. vp

    Well i had a same thing happen to me , BUT this time it was with another company… Sunquest Vacations, i paid the extra 300 and got back peeved to say the least… So i guess this is a common industry practice and not just isolated to Air Canada…
    the joys of travel..

  4. TJ

    I just don’t understand all the complaining about airlines and Air Canada in particular. People want to fly around the world at discount prices but expect to be treated like they are dealing with a 5 star hotel.
    Mr. Powell, you leave the impression that all Air Canada offer you was a flight that cost $400 more. They obvious offered you a full refund. What make you feel entitle to a higher price ticket at a later date ? You booked a ticket, the plane didn’t go because of weather, here’s your money back. What more do you deserve?
    How do you expect Air Canada to respond to your idle threat of never flying with them again?
    I just grow tired of the growing segment of the population who complains relentlessly about everything until corporation frighten of bad press final fold.
    Bravo to Air Canada, if I was running the airline I would have responded to Mr Powell’s threat by thanking him and putting him permanently on the no fly list.

  5. AK

    Mr. Powell,

    First, maybe it’s just me but I would rather stay home than fly or go on holiday during a hurricane.
    Second, this is how the travel industry works. If a hotel is unable to provide you with a room (for reasons outside their control), most probably you will be charged the fee difference.
    Third, Westjet has a similar policy (on-line tariffs, page 25):

    The Carrier reserves the right to cancel or change the planned departure, schedule,
    aircraft or stopping places of any flight for which fares have been paid, at any time and
    time to time, for any reason, without notice to any passengers affected thereby and, in connection therewith, THE CARRIER SHALL NOT BE LIABLE TO ANY PASSENGER in respect of
    cancellation or change, whether or not resulting from an Event of Force Majeure; provided
    the Carrier may and reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to provide any passengers affected by such cancellation or change with:
    a. a credit, valid for one year from the cancellation date, towards the provision of a fare relating to a future flight, which credit shall be equal to the original fare which was canceled; or
    b. to otherwise refund to such passenger, an amount which shall not be greater than the fare paid by that passenger in respect of that flight.”

    I think you are rather upset at the travel industry in general….

  6. W. Andrew Powell

    You both seem to have missed the point – something I should have made more clear above: the flight was scheduled in October. The hurricanes are gone and most of the hotels are open again. They didn’t cancel the flights because there was a hurricane the same day, or even the same week as the flight – it was weeks away.

    And of course I got my money back, that’s not the point.

    Put yourself in the same situation – are you going to be happy you booked a vacation and suddenly couldn’t make it, or had to pay hundreds of dollars more for the exact same trip? If Air Canada had offered to put me on another similar flight, even a couple of weeks later, I would have felt like they tried to help me out. But as it was, they just took the easy way out, and that’s not good enough for me. It proves I can’t trust them, and why would I give money to a company I can’t trust?

  7. W. Andrew Powell

    Oh, and on the topic of corporations, TJ, people do complain about a lot of things today. Most of them are utterly useless.

    The trick is to understand the difference between a legitimate complaint, and a frivolous one. It’s insane to think that, just because there are too many complaints in the world, that makes all complaints a waste of time.

  8. Sam Smith

    All good points, the romantics in this discussion should realize the core issue is a lack of regulation. Simply put..
    the Airline Industry is bleeding to death and can’t cut one corner without worrying the compitition will not do

    So don,t be suprised if you feel nickeled and dimed. Tell the govm’t to regulate and quit whinning.

  9. Bob

    A little of the beaten path I guess but I agree with Mr. Powell. Air Canada’s Customer Service is pretty much non-existant. Over the years I have had run ins with Air Canada over a variety of issues. Rules and regulations governing airlines and their advertising practices need some updating. Last night I attempted to book a vacation to Cancun for my wife and I. Like everyone else I would like to get the best price possible while trying not to sacrifice any enjoyment of the trip. I went to several websites to get pricing. What made me angry was a price was posted and advertised on these websites, but when you went to book your trip, the prices increased anywhere from $100 to $300 dollars a person. When you contact the travel agency directly they give you the old supply and demand crap. To me it is just good old fashioned false advertising. Air Canada follows this practice to a tee. I went to their own website and they conviently mark their low prices with the good old ” @ ” symbol. Only when you get into the booking procedure do you find out the real cost. Their airline tax charge is the highest of any of the charters, which is interesting since oil prices have come down and their taxes have not. The people who defend the airlines must have pretty deep pockets. I understand Air Canada’s problems just as much as they understand mine. I will agree Westjet has similar rules and regulations as Air Canada on some issues. However, Westjet comes across as a customer focused company not a snobish “I am the only airline in Canada” attitude that Air Canada employed for many years. Regulation, you bet. Airlines are not the only ones suffering in these economic times.

  10. Charlie

    I have had Air Canada cancell a flight 30 hours in advance for weather conditions at the airport.