Bad Airline Customer Service: No One to Complain To – TIME


 Bad Airline Customer Service: No One to Complain To – TIME

So this article strikes a nerve with me – and probably with almost anyone who has the misfortune to travel on an airline these days. Let me recount for you the story of my latest adventure flying on Air Canada…

A couple of weeks ago I found out I needed to go to Toronto (from my home in Moncton, NB) for a day of meetings. Several days before the trip, I went to the Air Canada web site to see what my options were (normally I avoid Air Canada  because of the consistently bad service, but in this case I had no choice). I booked a flight leaving Monday, August 24 in the evening and taking me to Toronto via Halifax. My return was the next evening, and was a direct flight.

As usual, I received an email 24 hours before my flight telling me I could check-in online at the AC web site. When I went to the web site, I noticed that the flight from Moncton to Halifax was already showing as delayed by 40 minutes. I was concerned, because this left me only 27 minutes to make my connection.

This worried me, and the next morning (early, about 3 AM) I called AC to see if I needed to change flights in order to make my connection. The agent put on hold, claiming she was contacting AC operations in Halifax, and then told me that there should not be a problem as they would hold the connection in Halifax. SO, I did my web check-in and went about my day.

I get to the airport Monday evening, and my flight still shows 40 minutes delay (you would think that if they knew it was delayed 24 hours in advance, they might find a way to recover). Then it was delayed another 5 minutes, then 10, then….well, when the departure time of my flight out of Moncton was the same as the departure time of my connection out of Halifax, I figured I was not making my connection. I decided to talk to the agent at the gate. Turns out the plane we were supposed to take had not even left Halifax yet – it was broken. I told him of my conversation with the customer service rep that morning, and he basically called me a liar – that no agent would make that statement, that they never hold flights for connections, and that besides, the flight had only been delayed for the first time at 5 PM (this despite the fact that I had an electronic boarding pass on my phone from 3 AM showing it already delayed at that point).

At this point I cancelled my flight, and got a prompt refund (though for the wrong amount – I will get to that later). I asked if there were any other options for getting me to this important meeting at 0900 the next morning, and was told that there was no way AC could get me to Toronto before late Tuesday.

On my way out of the terminal, I noticed that the refund amount was wrong. Going to the check-in counter, I find out that they cannot refund the “advanced seat selection fee”, and I would have to contact the refund processing centre to sort that out. I am given a card with contact information for AC. I also discover that it will take 1-2 billing periods for any refund to show on my credit card. Funny how they can take my money instantly, but it takes 4-8 weeks to give it back.

I get home. I call the refund centre. I eventually get routed to a voice mail box, which is unfortunately full, and I am summarily disconnected. Next, I try the eMail address provided. I receive an auto-response telling me they will get back to me – within 6 weeks.

I then start looking at options to get me to my meeting. Looking at he the AC web site, I discover that there are several options that will get me to Toronto in time for my meeting – none of them are great, but they can get me there. Funny that the agents at the airport could not be bothered helping me find a way to get there. I also end up spending twice as much as my original ticket, all because Air Canada cannot keep its planes in working order (this happens a lot flying out of Moncton).  I also spend up having to drive 100 miles each way to an airport in another city. I also forfeited a hotel room I had pre-booked in Toronto for Monday night. Too bad AC won’t reimburse me for all of those costs.

(not that on the way back, my flight out of Toronto was delayed 30 minutes as well – again because of a mechanical problem with the plane)

I would like to file a complaint with Air Canada, but they make this extremely difficult to impossible. It is completely impossible to speak to an actual person about it.

Air Canada (and most other airlines) makes it abundantly clear that they have no interest in their customers. This is why the airline industry is in the state it is – it is not high fuel costs, or other expenses. It is mismanagement, and a complete and utter contempt for their customers. An organization run this badly deserves to go out of business!

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About

I have been working in the world of technology for 25-odd years. I am an entrepreneur and consultant, focused on software solutions, social networking, and innovation processes. Currently, I am a Principal Consultant with T4G Limited, specializing in Portal Technologies (including SharePoint), software/systems development, service oriented architectures, and many other things which I will probably not remember until I need to use them. Prior to that, I was VP of Technology at Whitehill Technologies, Inc., where I spent almost 9 years helping to grow the company from a start-up to one of the most successful private software companies in Canada. Prior to that I worked on internet conferencing using early VoIP, and on large military communications projects. Before even that, I worked in satellite control, and remote sensing. Going way back to university, my focus was on theoretical physics and astrophysics. Currently my interests revolve around most aspects of software development, from technologies to management, and in the area of defining sustainable, repeatable processes for innovation within technology organizations. I also have a particular interest in Tablet PC technologies – I have been using one for several years, and I love it. On the personal side, I still have a strong interest in all aspects of science, especially physical sciences, as well as philosophy and comparative religion. In addition, I am into music, playing guitar (badly, I am sorry to say), and reading almost anything I can lay my hands on. I am also a member of the IEEE/IEEE Computer Society, and of the Association for Computing Machinery.

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Posted in Air Travel, Rant, Trends
One comment on “Bad Airline Customer Service: No One to Complain To – TIME
  1. Kevin says:

    Fred,

    There’s only one solution: Write a Song. Or better yet, write 3 songs.

    KB

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