Wednesday 9 May 2012

My bad Air Canada Vacations experience

When Gord and I went to Bermuda for New Years, we bought the package through Air Canada Vacations. It included our flight down and back, our hotel, transfer to and from the airport and the hotel, our meals and drinks.

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 able to sit together because the flight was full. But as it turned out it wasn't ... there were extra seats.

January 6
I contacted Air Canada Vacations online about the seating policy.  They promised a 48 hour response ... 72 hours later I got an email that said they were looking into it.

January 17
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.

"As a gesture of goodwill", Lisa offered to 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.

January 23
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.

January 30
I hadn't heard anything so wrote back asking for a response.

February 1
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.

February 8
I hadn't heard back from Lisa so wrote another email asking WHY I can't have my $30 back.

February 9
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.

February 14
I received an email from Lisa. She said that a cheque for $30 would be in the mail shortly. She had the wrong address for me (!!??) 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).

February 29
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.

March 7
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!!

March 29
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.

April 6
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 11
No word from Lisa.

April 13
Diana 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 16
I 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 23
I received the cheque for $30 dated February 13.  The address on it is wrong ... it has my street name as the city and our unit number as our street.  Almost four months to have the problem fixed is ridiculous!


Margaret B said...

One word: WestJet. :)

Suburban Princess said...

This happened to us on a British Airways flight out of Paris....we got there with time...we were held up at the ticket desk with a serious of ridiculous questions I've never been asked at the ticket desk...then we were directed to the main BA office. I was freaking out because I knew we were going to miss our flight....they told us we were late and didn't budge when I explained the ticket agent held us up with her questions normally asked by customs officers. They were speaking French on the phone...obviously with no idea I could understand what they were saying and they were talking about the flight being over booked. I read them the policy for overbooked flights...there were adamant we were late and it sucks to be us. We had to pay another 400 euros to get out of Paris!!!!

Isabel said...

I hope you get your money back.

nancy said...

I'm with Margaret... WestJet... but bring a lunch for the plane if you don't want to pay $.

Masshole Mommy said...

WOW! Call your local tv station or radio station. Make a huge stink until you get that $30 back. It's not like it's gonna break their bank and it would keep a customer happy. So dumb.....over $30!

Fizzgig said...

this sorta thing just shows that people often bow down when they get a response. I really believe that if you stay with your convictions like you have, you will be given what you want. most people are ok with the explanation, but that isn't always right.

good for you!

Dawn said...

how the heck can they get away with doing that???? The plane holds x amount of people, sell x amount of tickets...that's not rocket science. I think my blood would be boiling if I were in your shoes right now. So unprofessional.

Unknown said...

Boo. Years ago I had a bad experience with AC and I fly all.the.time.
I've never gone back. In fact, sometimes I go out of my way to not fly with them.

I hope some of your trip was good at least?

Lord of the Wings said...

That sucks! Sorry to hear and thanks for the warning.

LeeAnn said...

Thats crazy. You can't overbook a flight that has a hotel attached to it. Someone screwed up big time but no one wants to take responsibility for it. If they offer you a discount it should be over and above any promotional prices on the flights - otherwise whats the point? Just heard from someone yesterday who got money back on AC because there tv didn't work.
I can't imagine getting to the airport excited to leave on your trip only to be told you may not go. Makes you want to pursue just because of the principal and the fact they hope you just go away.

Teena in Toronto said...

I've been on a few AC flights where the video didn't work ... and I never complained.

I just want my $30 and I'll go away!

Annie said...

That's ridiculous! I tend to get rather infuriated with crappy customer service like this. AND they word things to make them look better than what they are.

Sheesh. If I were in that position, everytime I was making a flight in the future, I'd be calling your Air Canada person and let them know.

"Hey, I need to fly to _____ and I just want you to know I won't be booking the trip with Air Canada!"

They should just give you the $30 back and suck it up.

Julie said...

What a pain! I'm sorry that you and Gord had to deal with that before your vacation. After reading this, I'm glad that I nixed plans to fly to Orlando this June and drive instead. I don't know how airlines stay in business if that is how they treat their customers.

Way Out Wear said...

Sheeesh - that's pretty crappy - all for $30! unreal! You'd think with all the competition and the drop in air travel they'd try a little harder to keep our business!
I hope you find another company to go with- and a new travel agent too! He/She should have know those details too!

Way Out Wear said...

Congratulations on Closure!
Sorry you had to go through such a shitty event though!

Adaptable Kay said...

Oh goodness....That sounds like a lot of headache over something THEY'RE responsible for.

What ever happened to GOOD customer service?!

Well, hopefully you'll get reimbursed soon and then you won't ever have to deal with that company again!

LeeAnn said...

Nice dig and attempt to absolve any responsibility.

Makes you want to take it a bit higher on principal.

Why can't people just say they made a mistake, most people understand that.

Anonymous said...

Tee, write a song, pick up a guitar and put it on YouTube. It'll go viral and you'll get your $30 before you can say WestJet. :) Pick a jazzy title like "Airlines Overbook like Crooks"

Teresa said...

AC service is not what it used to be. They don't overbook, yeah right! On one occasion having paid top dollar for my ticket, then to discover upon check in that the flight was overbooked. They had the never to tell me I would not get on the flight. Excuse me! Then why did I pay premium price if there were no seats available? Grrrrrrrr. Good luck get some satisfaction and your money.

Mass Hole Mommy said...

I've been following your story since the beginning and I cannot believe they haven't sent that check yet. You'd think they would just want to be done with it.

BLOGZOOM said...

Dear Teena,

I have the impression that this problem has occurred on many airlines and in various locations around the world. Here in Brazil we seríssimos problems, especially regarding delays/overbooked. Some delays of more than 24 hours, causing many passengers lie down for being so tired. This is a lack of respect for consumers.

I hope your holidays have been great to offset the disorder of the flight.

Unknown said...

Years ago I decided to never fly with Air Canada again. I travel a lot as well, and every time I was burned by them in lovely different ways.
The day I asked for some directions to the 'infield' terminal to a AC employee for a AC flight and they responded they didn't know and to go ask someone else. That ended any respect I had for them.

I'm sorry your experience with them sucked as well. I at least hope your vacation was okay all aside?

LeeAnn said...

Send a copy of this timeline to her and her boss and their boss and see what happens.

Seeing it laid out like this -it looks absolutely ridiculous!

Teresa said...

Fingers crossed that eventually you get a refund.

Teresa said...

Fingers crossed that eventually you get a refund.

Teena in Toronto said...

Crazy, eh?

Surprisingly they don't put their phone numbers in their emails ... I wonder why!!

Zoey Castelino said...

Holy crap! What an ordeal!