Precursor: First of all, I am not so spoiled as to believe that being stuck in an airport for nine hours is at all a crisis. There are millions more injustices on earth that dwarf my predicament.
Secondly: I want to be clear that the majority of the Air Canada front-line workers, ground crew and flight crew have been very accommodating and lovely (there were a few stinkers). They are a fine example of a group of people who are underpaid and left to deal with the steaming shit-piles that company executives create, daily, with their bad and sleazy business practices.
Vacation Day One:
I arrived at Charlottetown airport at 3:50am for my 5:45am international flight. Upon arrival I was notified, for the first time, that my primary flight was delayed due to “Crew Issues.” I was told I would no longer be making my connecting flight, departing Montreal at 8:20am. I was told they were putting me on a flight leaving Montreal at 4:45pm. I was not happy but things happen. I asked if they were offing compensation for this delay. I asked if they would wave the $25.00+taxes bag fee. I was told they would not and, “50 other people are in the same boat as you.” I then suggested that 50 other people should also have their bag fees waved. However, this is “against Air Canada policy.” No fees waived for anyone. I did manage to get a $10.00 food voucher and a wee bag of pretzels. I put the voucher toward the $16.00 I paid for a sandwich and a coke, at a hallway kiosk, in Montreal. (There’s a country song in that sentence).
Here’s where I became extremely irritated: one of the airport staff divulged that Air Canada knew they were delaying my 5:45am Saturday flight by 7:00pm on Friday. Nobody on the flight was notified of the delay or offered the opportunity to fly to Montreal Friday evening. Nobody was told NOT to show up 2 hours before our delayed flight, as it would not be leaving until 7:30. I’m so glad I set the alarm for 2:30am so I could leave for the airport at 3am, in time to be there 2 hours early. As it turns out, I was 3 hours and 50 minutes early.
Air Canada left their front-line staff with a shit show to clean up. They had to manually rebook 50 people… well, actually, more than 50 people because everyone showed up for the over sold flight. Strike Two: More bodies than seats.
If you bought a car from a dealer and showed up to pick up said car, only to find out the dealer sold that car to three different people and the first guy who arrived got the car: that would be a fraudulent business practice and you could take that sleazy dealer to court for compensation. So why is it airlines in Canada are allowed to commit fraud daily and it’s just business?
Luckily, I had the fortitude to pay an additional $30 per seat, per plane, to guarantee my seats. Isn’t it sad that you can pay hundreds or thousands for a seat on a flight and in order to guarantee the seat you’ve already paid for, you have to cough up more money for every seat on every connector, to assure you will be on the flight you already booked and paid for? This is reminiscent of the business practices of a loan shark.
Things took a turn for the worse when passengers for two outgoing Toronto flights started arriving, while three attendants were trying to find new connectors for/rebook 50+ people. By this time I was through security and posted on Facebook that I was not happy. A friend of mine happened to be in the lobby, trying to check in (on time for the unreported, delayed Montreal flight). It did become somewhat amusing as we started to report the happenings to each other, from our respective vantage points. (Thanks for the info, Wendy)!
The pre-boarding area looked like Piccadilly Circus at rush hour. Picture a small room with two counters, only feet apart (one West Jet, the other Air Canada), there’s one PA system and multiple flight attendants trying to heard people onto the Tarmac, towards two different planes, heading to the same destination. The third plane: my flight, is also on the Tarmac, where it has been for about 12 hours, in perfect working order, because there wasn’t a crew ready to fly it. (Ample time to bring in another, rested crew, ready to fly).
Now picture the further confusion of the Air Canada clients, traveling to Toronto, who were bounced from their oversold Air Canada flight, and are now flying West Jet’s Toronto bound flight(simultaneously boarding, through one gate), but not knowing which line to get into after all of the bouncing around and waiting.
Are you lost? It gets better: The West Jet agent is calling out, without PA system, “boarding Zones 1&2.” While the Air Canada attendant is coming over the speaker, “Zones 3 & 4 now boarding.” Most of the Toronto bound traveler’s are on their feet not knowing who the hell is calling what sections. People are crisscrossing and all headed out the one departing gate, with a plethora of looks on their faces: none of which are smiles. All of this brought to us by two oversold and one delayed Air Canada flight(s).
I sat, taking it all in, my friend who had been in the lobby for more than an hour for the 5:45am Montreal flight, still hadn’t made it through security. We continued to converse, I’ve posted our conversation below (with her permission) for your viewing pleasure.
Eventually everyone got checked, most of the passengers were going to miss their connections and would have long waits at airports from Montreal to Alberta.
Upon arrival in Montreal I had received a Facebook reply and a few Twitter messages from Air Canada representatives. Including a request that I DM them (private message them). I guess they weren’t enjoying our conversation on a public forum. I have also posted those conversations, where you will see that “unfortunately” Air Canada can’t help us with anything.
When all is said and done: I’ve lost a day of my one week holiday for this year. Does it suck? Yes. Is it the end of the world? No.
The issue is the constant mistreatment and fleecing of Canadians at the hands of Air Canada and their counterparts. Last week CBC Compass (out of Charlottetown, PEI) announced that the Canadian Government was looking at legislating mandatory compensation for delayed flights, oversold flights and lost baggage. I believe the compensation would be 400% of the ticket price up to $1300 (Cash: not vouchers). I can’t speak for all Canadians but I can speak for the majority of the 50 people on my flight, this is long overdue. Selling 2 or more people the same seat is FRAUD. Booking a passenger on a flight and then strongly suggesting they fork over, up to $30 more per seat, to guarantee they will get a seat they’ve already paid for is THEFT. Knowing 10-12 hours in advance that a flight is delayed and not notifying consumers who have paid dearly for that flight, denying them the opportunity to make alternate arrangements, all so your plane won’t be empty when you’re ready to fly, is a PATHETIC business practice for a company in the “service” industry.
Air Canada suggested numerous times that I contact Customer Service. I won’t waste three more hours, on the phone, waiting to talk to a person, only to be told they can’t/won’t do anything for me. Or that nobody at Air Canada (who created the fees) has the power to waive any fees.
Dear Air Canada Customer Service, (I use the term: Customer Service, loosely), if you have something to offer, you know where to find me. This is my official Customer Service complaint. What are you going to do for me and my fellow travelers?
Everyone else: feel free to share your Air Canada horror stories and don’t forget to tell us what the customer service department did to compensate you.
**Footnote: myself and the eight other passengers from PEI, got on the flight from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale. Sadly, not all of the paying customers did as this flight was oversold by 5 seats. Once again the front line crew was asking for volunteers to wait another day to fly out. I don’t know if they got them after 6 announcements offering vouchers, as compensation for getting bounced.
Once onboard, the cabin was almost cold enough to freeze meat. Several people seated near me were remaking about the temperature. On the bright side: Air Canada was offering blanket rentals for $7.00 each. $10.00 if you also wanted the wee little pillow. Indeed! Customer service at its finest.