Our flight was scheduled to leave Toronto about 8am on the Saturday morning (New Years Eve). When we checked in at 6am, we were told that we would be flying standby (according to the check-in agent, the flight was full) because our travel agent hadn't reserved us specific seats on the plane (and charge us an extra $15 each). If we couldn't get on our flight, it was our tough luck and we'd have to suck up the cost of the hotel for the night we wouldn't be there. Huh? Needless to say, we were shocked.
I travel quite often for my job and I've bought many vacation packages over the years and I have never paid for a plane ticket only to fly standby unless I paid an extra $15 to be assured a seat. I have paid the extra $ on flights but this was because I wanted a specific seat. When one buys a plane ticket, you assume you are getting a seat, not getting a seat if there is one left over for you.
We had to wait for over an hour until we knew we had a seat. This was not a good way to start a vacation. As it turns out, the seats we were assigned were purchased by a family who paid the extra $15 for them (so the seats were issued twice). The flight wasn't full so they sat elsewhere.
I emailed our travel agent immediately when we reached Bermuda and she reserved us specific seats to ensure we could get home (thus charging my VISA $30). Initially we were told we wouldn't be to sit together because the flight was full. But as it turned out it wasn't ... there were extra seats.
I contacted Air Canada Vacations online about the seating policy. I also explained about our flight being delayed a day because of the weather. They promised a 48 hour response ... 72 hours later I got an email that said they were looking into it.
I finally got a response back from Lisa, Customer Relations, at Air Canada that included:
Air Canada has the capability to oversell flights in order that we operate at full capacity, yet we do so very cautiously. Since it is monitored continuously to ensure accuracy, in the majority of cases this process is very effective. The result works to the benefit of passengers and the airline alike by ensuring not only full utilization of seating but also that the greatest number of persons travel on the flight of their choice. On occasion, however, we do find ourselves in the unfortunate position of having to deny boarding to a customer.
That being said, it is not customary to oversell an Air Canada Vacations flight, and our records indicate that flight AC 942 on December 31, 2011 went out at 87% capacity. As such, I am unable to provide you with a detailed explanation as to why you were not assigned seats at check-in.
Lisa offered to look at covering our additional expenses for our extra day (my VISA card has trip interruption insurance and I had a cheque from them within a week) and "as a gesture of goodwill" give us a 20% discount on our next Air Canada booking (right now Air Canada is offering 50% off flights so we can do better without the "gesture of goodwill"). BTW, the discount code doesn't even work.
I wrote back thanking Lisa for her offer but said instead I want to be refunded the $30 we were forced to pay for ensure we had seats, which she said herself she doesn't know why we had to. It's a hell of a lot cheaper to pay me the $30 than the $400 for the extra day and the 20% discount. Financially that doesn't make sense.
I hadn't heard anything so wrote back asking for a response.
I got this email from Lisa.
Thank you for the follow-up email. I am truly sorry you remain dissatisfied with Air Canada.
Although there is little more I can add to my initial explanation, I understand your experience was disappointing. Please be assured Air Canada strives for excellence and we apologize we let you down.
The goodwill travel discount was offered to demonstrate our regret for the lapse in our usual high standard of service. While we realize this does not meet your expectation, we earnestly hope you will accept this in the manner it was intended. Respectfully, we are unable to offer additional consideration as requested.
We would like to thank you, once again, for contacting us. We recognize we did not leave you with a favourable impression on this occasion but we look forward to an opportunity to provide you with a more positive travel experience in the future.
We appreciate the opportunity to review your concerns.
Really?! Basically she has blown me off. What kind of customer service is that? I responded immediately with an email that all I want is my $30 back and I'd be happy.
I hadn't heard back from Lisa so wrote another email asking WHY I can't have my $30 back.
I received an email from Lisa ... our "concerns" have been reviewed by a supervisor and Lisa wanted me to send her proof of us spending the $30. So I emailed her a screenshot of my VISA online showing the charge.
I received an email from Lisa. She said that a cheque for $30 would be in the mail shortly. She had the wrong address so I sent her an email immediately to correct it (they had my street name as the city and our unit number as our street).
I got this email from Lisa:
Unfortunately, the cheque was mailed out before we were able to change the address. Once the correspondence is returned to our office, we will mail the cheque to the correct address.
Out of the blue, I received an email from Celyne, Customer Service Rep, with Air Canada Vacations. Blah blah blah about how they don't practice overbooking and when they do, no one is denied a seat, etc. blah blah blah.
I took offense at this sentence:
We would like to reiterate that Air Canada Vacations does not practice flight overbooking and it is our understanding that you were not affected by such situation and that each client of your party had an assigned seat.
Affected?? I guess she doesn't consider being told that the flight was fully booked and, even though we had bought seats with our package, there was a chance we weren't going, then having to wait an hour in agony on standby before discovering we had seats "affected"!!
This sentence pissed me off too:
Upon verification of your reservation file, we noted that your travel agent called on December 31, 2011 at or around 16:07 and instructed Air Canada Vacations to add the prepaid seats selection on your return flight as per your request.
Only because the Air Canada rep in Toronto told us to do this if we wanted to be assured of a flight home!!
It had been a month since I received an email from Lisa advising me that the $30 cheque had been sent to an address that doesn't even exist. I sent her an email asking what the status is since the cheque hadn't arrived yet.
It had been a week since I sent an email to Lisa asking about the status of my cheque since there had been no response from Lisa.
April 11No word from Lisa. I planted a gripe about it on Gripevine.
April 13Diana from Air Canada Vacations left a voice message saying she has "followed up internally wih Air Canada" and they will be "contacting me to give me the status".
April 16I received an email from Lisa:
Please accept my apologies for the delay in my response to you, as I have been away on vacation.
The cheque has come back to our office, and will be sent to the following address shortly: [my correct address]
Once again, thank you for your continued patience.
April 23I received the cheque for $30 today dated February 13. The address on it is wrong ... it has my street name as the city and our unit number as our street.
April 25I deposited the cheque today ... fingers crossed my bank will cash it since my address is wrong on it.
May 9It's been two weeks and I haven't heard back from the back so I'm assuming the cheque has cleared. Yippee!