Air Canada, My Most Favourite Airline in the Entire World

Customer service is not in the vocabulary of anyone involved with Air Canada. They go about their business doing what is best for Air Canada and the customer bedamned. We have arranged our trip so we have plenty of time between each of our connections. Overnight and time to spare in fact. Today we get a notice from my favourite airline indicating that our flight from Vancouver through to Bangkok has been cancelled and they have summarily placed us on a flight the following day which conveniently arrives 7 hours after our flight to Myanmar has departed.

The agent we bought the tickets from got nothing but guff from the AC people. All they are willing to do is to refund our money. Great! This leaves us to find an alternate way to get to Bangkok, any extra cost is to be born by us. There are of course other carriers that fly to Bangkok. Cathay Pacific has a flight that would suit us but at an extra cost of $200 per person. To me this is unacceptable.

I call Air Canada myself and find a very nice lady that is willing to help out but she can not change the tickets. It has to be our travel agent that changes the tickets. The AC operator does try to get hold of our ticket buyer but the line is busy as our agent is also connected to Air Canada trying to solve things more to our satisfaction. The agent gets nowhere and I have to disconnect as there is no more my connection can do for me. I pass on the name of the lady that helped me to J, our ticket purchaser. J tries to connect with her but of course AC will not do that either so we are back to; money back and buy our tickets elsewhere.

Both J and I found out there are indeed open seats on the flights flying the day earlier to our original booking and on an alternate routing on the same day as our original booking, but those seats are not available to us because the seats are connected to a different code level than the seats we booked (more expensive). This to me is of little consequence. I paid for a seat on a flight and the supplier of that service decided to cancel that flight, therefore it is up to the service supplier to provide me with the service I paid for. I see it as that simple.

Two days later we have a solution. Semi OK with Debbie and me as we are on a flight with an alternate route, flying the same day as our original flight, but our travel companions had to book with Cathay Pacific costing them an extra $400, not at all fair.

Although it is difficult to not unload on front line employees they cannot do a damn thing about it our problem. They are only following the dogma outlined by the management. A simple solution to this problem is empowering the employees to make decisions. Although there will always be the exception if the front line people are allowed to evaluate each case as it arises and determine an equitable solution to keep both parties (the customer and AC) happy, I think management would find that 99.99% of the solutions would not harm AC’s bottom-line and they would have a happy customer, an all important returning customer.  

The same day we get our flights realigned there is an article in the business section of the newspaper saying the cost cutting measures taken by AC are starting to work and the company is making money. Their stocks have increased substantially over the last two days. I’m sure the investors have looked at all the numbers and at this point in time they are favourable but there is a piece of soft data I am sure they have missed, customer satisfaction. The people investing in AC at this point have missed this vital cog in the investing wheel. This will come back to bite them and there will be more than a few lose some of their investment because AC will not retain customers if they continue to act in the irresponsible manner in which they have handled the incident that now affects us.

I do not believe all of the employees at Air Canada are evil. As evidenced by the booking agent I talked to. She seemed quite reasonable and willing to help. The times in the last couple of years I have had reason to fly Air Canada, I have found the staff at the gate desk and the in air to be pleasant enough. I believe it is the management that needs an adjustment. First, I believe the people in charge have one objective and that is the bottom-line, good objective for any company. It is just they have chosen the wrong route to get there. I was a manager in a very successful customer service type business. Our entire focus was on what the customer needed. This does not mean ‘the customer is always right’. What is does mean is if you take care of the customer the bottom line will take care of itself. Happy customers make for happy REPEAT business. The AC management group has chosen to concentrate on black ink vs. red ink and ink does not pay for the service provided customers do.

Air Canada has an near monopoly in Canada but there are alternatives, both domestic and international. I have been lulled back into thinking Air Canada has improved their ways but this latest incident has proved me wrong and I will again be searching alternatives to Air Canada. Scratch two clients.

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