Empress of the Universe

Monday, February 26, 2007

Air Canada - Love 'em and Hate 'em

My daughter came home yesterday for 24 hours for a 'real job' opportunity from her 'retirement' in Florida. It was a harrowing day for her. After four hours sleep, she left her villa at 5 a.m. to go to the West Palm Beach airport to catch a 7:00 a.m. flight, stopping in Washington, DC before continuing on to Toronto. At 7:30 a.m. she called to let us know her flight was delayed. An hour later, she called again, this time to let us know that the flight leg from DC to Toronto was cancelled due to bad weather. They would put her up in Washington and fly her out sometime Monday.

In all my years of business travel, there are two things I have learned: don't complain about mechanical delays or delays due to bad weather.

Shannon's bag had already been checked through to Toronto via Washington, but since her appointment was in Toronto at 9:00 Monday morning, being stranded in Washington, DC was not going to help. I told her not to board the DC flight; don't worry about her bag, it will get here eventually (it still hasn't, but that'll be another story, I'm sure).

Now, how to get her to Toronto? She checked at the Air Canada desk but all flights to Toronto from West Palm Beach were booked solid. In the meantime, I was on the phone with Orbitz (where she'd booked her flight) and she was surfing the internet via wireless connection, trying to find a way to get her home.

Voila! She found a reasonable fare and flight for the same day, leaving from Fort Lauderdale and coming to Toronto via Ottawa. Only problem was, Shannon was in West Palm Beach. And her friend had dropped her off at the airport. She called her friend in a panic to came back to pick her up and race her to Fort Lauderdale. If it all worked out OK, Shannon would land in Toronto around 6 p.m.

They got there with minutes to spare. Air Canada - Love 'em #1. The ticket agent processed Shannon through quickly (no bags to check, remember?) and helped her move through the security line (bypassing thousands of spring break travellers). When she got to her gate, a lovely ticket agent offered her, instead, a direct flight to Toronto (no stop in Ottawa) leaving an hour later and arriving an hour earlier. Shannon was thrilled to accept. Air Canada - Love 'em #2. They upgraded her to business class. She landed at 5 p.m., twelve hours after she left that morning.

Since she was coming home for a business opportunity and has obligations to her team in Florida, she was scheduled to stay for only 24 hours before returning to West Palm Beach on her $109.00 ticket. After hearing how stressful her trip home had been, her team leader gave her an extra day before needing her back. She inquired in Fort Lauderdale about a change fee to move Monday's return flight to Tuesday, instead. She was told it would be $130.00 to change, but she'd have to do it online or on the phone. Now, $130 to change a $109 ticket might not be acceptable to you and me, but Shannon was stressed and homesick. But there wasn't time to make the change before getting on her flight.

I tried to help by making the change online. The change fee reported a fare difference of almost $400. In the meantime, she had gone to Shopper's Drug Mart to replace the make-up that had flown as far as Washington, DC and studied for her test for today's meeting. It was almost midnight and she'd had a stressful day. I offered to call Air Canada to make the change over the phone since the on-line thing wasn't working out to $130. After more than an hour-and-a-half on hold with Air Canada, I gave up.

Today, we awoke at 6 a.m. to get ready for the trip downtown. I gave Shannon the news that I was unable to make the $130 change. She was disappointed. We thought we'd try at the airport after her appointment, since she was due to fly out today anyway.

She aced her test and we made our way to the airport. Upon arrival, she got in a very long line to see a ticket agent. In the meantime, I picked up the courtesy phone, which was answered after two rings. I inquired about the fee to change her ticket so she could return tomorrow instead of today. $400. Shannon started to cry, she was so disappointed. She needed that one day of rest and recovery. I think she really wanted her Mom's cooking.

She removed herself from the line and went to check-in to get her boarding pass. After finalizing her paperwork, we decided to inquire about her bag. We were sent to another Air Canada agent at the other end of the terminal. We asked about her luggage and were directed to yet another area. As we walked away, Shannon doubled back and asked about the cost of changing her flight. The agent clicked a few buttons on her computer and told her it would cost $40.

Air Canada - Love 'em #3. The agent made the day a million times better for Shannon today with a change fee of $40.

The same change that I had just 20 minutes earlier asked another agent about? In less than 20 minutes, the fee went from $400 to $40. In less than 24 hours, the fee had gone from $130 to $400 to $40? Nothing else had changed.

Air Canada - sometimes it's hard to love 'em.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have had nothing but negative experiences with Air Canada. Not only do my bags continually end up lost, which in itself boggles my mind, but having do deal with and CSR is painful. Not only are they rude but it is as though they truly think AC is this "wonderful" company. I hate using Air Canada and if I could have gotten a flight back home this Christmas from another carrier, I sure as hell would have. They are useless, arrogant and do not care about the people who buy their air fare. AC needs to get under new management, get LESS funding from the federal government and realize the importance of their customers.

8:24 PM  

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