Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Air Canada - your incompetent airline

I thought KLM is one of the worst outfits gracing our skies (well, I am excluding US airlines, of course), but I have since discovered that AIR CANADA is by far the worst outfit disgracing our skies. It is basically a state subsidized organization run very much incompetently, and with no concern for its customers. Its customer complaints people churn out message after message generating platitudes explaining why its failings are 'acts of god', 'bad weather', 'name your preferred excuse of the day'.
I failed a few weeks back to get to Hong Kong because 'weather' supposedly prevented my flight to Hong Kong from leaving. It goes without saying, plenty of flights left my airport, despite the 'weather', but hey, AIR CANADA's excuse generating software is routinely up for some unintelligible explanation or other. According to its excuse generating software (presumably sent from an overseas based excuse generating computer) 'bad weather' permitted flights to leave at 6 am, and at 8 am, but the very same bad weather prevented the 7 am flight from leaving. It goes without saying that this is utter bollocks (utter bollocks is a short for 'AIR CANADA customer disservice department's unintelligible explanation').
A friend tried to leave on AIR CANADA for an overseas trip yesterday. The weather was actually really bad, and one would have expected the flight to be canceled. AIR CANADA operates another dysfunctional 'service', one in theory at least informing people (NOT) about flight cancellations. So, he calls em up and asks whether his flight is still scheduled to fly out that day. Dutifully AIR CANADA 'informs' him that his flight is on time and that he should go to the airport. Upon arrival there he's told that there were NO flights that day, due to the bad weather. So, he had to scramble last minute to catch a train to Toronto's airport to fly from there. Reimbursement for the flight not operated? Reimbursement for unnecessary taxi fares to the aiport based on AIR CANADA's advice (ie we are flying)? Of course not. The only thing AIR CANADA is truly good at is a prompt response saying 'weather related' or 'act of god' (the airline's standard response should, of course, be: 'due to our incompetence'). So, my friend got an 'act of god' response in lieu of an explanation for why the airline dragged him to the airport when it hadn't operated a single flight from that airport on that day.
One can only hope that the Canadian government will stop sinking tax payers' money in what is obviously a dysfunctional national carrier (it doesn't seem to carry too many passengers to their booked destinations anyway...).
My advice, avoid booking AIR CANADA at all cost. I won't be boarding its planes again. My idea about boycotting particularly bad airlines is to boycott them for a period of, say, five years, hoping that either they'll be bankrupt by then and out of business, or replaced by a more competently run operator, or that they'd have improved their operations to such an extent that they'd be given another chance. So, AIR CANADA, come January 01, 2012 I might reconsider you. Hopefully though, there is an alternative carrier available to me by then.

19 comments:

  1. I feel I should correct a major error in your rant. AC is not state subsidised by the canadian government. It has been a public company owned by its share holders for many years.

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  2. Hey, thanks much. I probably should have checked that information. Everyone and their dog told me that AC is a state subsidized airline, so I assumed the government is some sort of shareholder. Well, if lots of people simply boycott them then, it shouldn't take that long to ground em altogether...

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  3. It surely isn't ethical to simply accept "everyone and their dogs" word, anymore than it would be to turn any singular experience into broad-based fact. You and your friend had bad experiences, as do many people, in the world of air travel. Planes don't operate on a fixed track. Airlines move millions of people a day. Your last excellent airline experience was surely someone else's pinnacle of misery based on his/her own issue. I would rather feel wronged by an airline with a longstanding stellar reputation for safety (notwithstanding your rant or the rants of many others) than accept that someone's short-ranged glance out the window is all that's needed to accept the complexities of "weather-related" delays. These in fact may affect some flights and not at all interfere with others. This, too, is information that "probably should have been checked" and disclosed in the rant of a self-described ethicist professor.

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  4. I am afraid I disagree with you. For starters, the question of whether or not they're state subsidized is not truly important re the actual issue of a complete failure of their customer service and their failure to provide relevant information in a timely fashion. Basically you book a flight with them and there's a serious chance that they're stuffing it up some way or other. They then fail to apologize or compensate you for additional costs their failure has caused to you. I doubt Air Canada's 'stellar' safety record is any better than, say, QANTAS, and they would not treat you in such a manner. The 'weather' related nonsense had nothing at all to do with looking out of the window, but with noting that AIR CANADA operated flights that same morning from an airport that they also insisted they couldn't fly from due to weather related issues. I was at the airport and saw it with my own eyes. The flights from Kingston to Toronto are all small commuter planes, essentially the same machines, so the weather would have affected them in precisely the same way... nuff said.

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  5. This post is just stupid. Weather is outside of an airline's control. That you don't understand the domino effect that occurs when a complicated global network of flights gets wacked by a storm, just shows you don't really know what you are talking about.

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  6. Actually no, the weather is indeed outside airlines control, but not how they deal with the fall-out of bad weather. In my case Air Canada knew the night prior to my flight that they would not be able to fly at 7am (but at 6 am and 8 am) ex Kingston. So, what would have prevented them from getting a cab or train ride organized for me to catch my flight to Hong Kong. Nothing at all. The point is, the airline could not care less.
    Similarly for my visitor. The airline did not operate flights all day ex Kingston due to bad weather yet it continued to advise its customers to show up on time at the airport. They could have called many hours earlier and organised the train trip to Toronto (a 2 hour plus ride, no big deal), or even asked passengers to make alternative arrangements to get to their Toronto flight. The things is, the airline couldn't care less. This has nothing at all to do with bad weather but utter refusal by the airline to provide professional customer service.

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  7. Great article.

    Your readers might want to try www.Measuredup.com a leading customer service review website where people share reviews with other users and with companies. Companies that are involved with and value customer service read Measuredup to keep up on what people are saying and to be able to improve customer service.

    It is free and easy to use.

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  8. Wow, I really don't understand the rush to defend AC. I, my friends and my family, have experienced many times over the incompetence and shoddy customer service that is Air Canada's brand. Unfortunately, many of us are completely left without choice because as much as AC may be publicly owned, it has received funds from the Canadian government for many years, thus making it very difficult for other airlines to break in to transporting air passengers in Canada. Westjet, which is an excellent alternative, has a very limited flight schedule and a limited number of cities it services. Same goes for Bearskin Airlines and Canjet (which may not even operate right now). Thus, Canadians wanting to get around within Canada have pretty limited options - making us a perfect "cornered market". We pretty much have to put up with whatever crap AC chooses to dish out in terms of service. My favourite example was when I was trying to get home for a funeral of someone dear to me and I ended up getting to my connecting flight in Toronto, only to be told that the ticket agent in Ottawa had put me on "standby" for the last portion of my flight - meaning that I could only leave Toronto if someone that had a "real" seat on the plane didn't show up. That would have been ok if I hadn't paid full price for the ticket. And judging from what I did pay, that *better* have been full price - it worked out to about $1 per km each way. Yikes! Needless to say, I didn't get on the plane and didn't make the funeral... quite upsetting. And the letters I sent to AC went completely unanswered. Eventually I just accepted defeat, having attempted to contact everyone of significance I could think of.

    Anyway, everyone I know has an AC example just like this one. The airline is total crap and its too bad that Canadians really have their hands tied in terms of options. I think all of us would boycott if there were a better alternative.

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  9. I'm happy this blog entry shows up second hit on technorati when searching "aircanada". Everytime I fly with Air Canada I'm dissapointed! They charge full price and offer half the service of Lufthansa, KLM or other major airlines.

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  10. couldn't agree more. i flew with them to the caribbean a couple of months ago, and they seriously tried to sell me food on a flight lasting something like 5 or more hours. their greed (like their incompetence) shows no boundaries. i say: avoid them at all cost. i'm flying out of montreal now as there's plenty of alternative airlines. ironically it's air canada's corporate headquarter, too, it seems.

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  11. Guys! i cant believe actually somebody is defending Air Canada!(maybe an employee or something!) the airline should have left this line of business years ago! i called them and i was told to be at the airport then when i got there i was told there are not flying! excuse my French but that is incompetence! I ask if I'll get my money back i was told that this is an act of God! well i happen to be an atheist so God crap just don't cut it for me, i'm sorry; they could have come up with with something better than that!

    Personally i think they did it on purpose cos they knew if they advise people not to go to the airport then they'll call to change their ticket causing more hassle for them!

    Stop defending them, it's just pathetic! Phew! have guts and balls to tell me that your screwed up then I'll understand.

    Dont remind me! still furious...need a beer to cool me down!

    PS! oh by the way Udo! i forgot to mention that the flight also had a delay of 4 hours, we left some people behind, there were not happy for sure.

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  12. Well, my cousin from Calgary came threw Montreal enroute to France and booked British Airways Business class..
    The night BEFORE the winter storm, his flight got canceled cause their aircraft went "bust".
    After several calls to BA, and the reps they sent to his hotel,with conflicting information, he finally made it on his BA flight to London 2 days late, NO compensation was offered for the storm delays, other passengers where left behind in Montreal that paid lower economy fares, and No assistance was offered to my cousin regardless that he paid British Airways close to 7000$!

    He swore next time to fly Air Canada... as did others i heard in the Lobby of the hotel as the bus left them behind in Montreal standing by for a flight out to LHR.(they were not eligible to even book with another airline )

    My point is , the grass ISN'T greener on the other side..

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  13. hehe! You can travel from coast to coast in Canada for about $150-$250...and you expect to be put up in a hotel for that amount??
    Given money for a $60 taxi ride? Fed 3 meals per day??

    Sign up for their SMS cell phone flight status. Works well.

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  14. actually, even low cost carriers in europe have to take care of passengers they're leaving stranded. simple as that. if they choose to offer a particular service at a particular price they ought still to be held accountable if they do not deliver that service and cause substantial cost and inconvenience. anyway, neither here nor there, i have since taken plenty of international trips, and managed to get where in wanted to go. the trick undoubtedly is to fly airlines other than air canada.

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  15. i think the rush to defend AC is the typical canadian insecurity about being criticized by a guy who perhaps isn't a "fellow canadian." If you were a "fellow canadian" they probably would agree with you.

    Because let's face it, AC is incompetent. They just cancelled all their short and medium flights out of vancouver this morning blaming it on weather. But YVR is open and westjet is flying out of there no problem. But no - AC just cancels all their flights! They have people sitting on a plane on the tarmac for 12 hours! Like hostages! This airline is a sham! They shouldn't be in business. Fly west jet or any other airline you possibly can and hopefully the market will get rid of this useless organization.

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