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2006 06 10
Does Toronto Need a New Airline: Jeffery Simpson on Air Canada
Image from the ramp mishap site http://www.elchineroconcepts.com/B747%20cgagl_air_canada_2.jpg

Jeffery Simpson tears a strip off Air Canada for its terrible customer service in today's Globe and Mail. It seems just about everyone you talk to these days has a horror story about the company's poor service. While the past five years have not been a good time to be in the airline business, Air Canada seems to be unable to compete effectively with smaller, more nimble companies like WestJet. The result is that Air Canada will do everything possible to prop up its bottom line.

Need food on your trans-Canada flight? Sorry, that will be $5 for a sandwich. Have to stand in line forever? Too bad - find another airline. Oh, AC has a virtual monopoly on some routes... sorry. Then there is the company's online service. I recently wanted to use 35,000 travel bonus points. First, I tried to use the Net to check available flights. There was a technical problem. Sorry. Call us. Turns out that a while back AC changed its policy about how long it will let customers go without redeeming their points. I had to pay $120 to have my points reinstalled. Grumble, but I did it. Then, when I went to book the flight A) Only a few flights were eligible, and B) suddenly, the flights that were available cost a ridiculous number of points. Did I mention ridiculous? Goodbye $120.

My partner has managed to attain the much coveted Super-Elite status (through much suffering on 70% failure rate of missed connections after 16 hour flights - don't get her started). She went online and guess what? She could book any flight and, this is where the story gets annoying, those flights were available at a more reasonable point cost. Did I mention how much I love Canada's national airline? Let's face it. I like many who have to travel on Air Canada will make a point of honour to change airlines at the first possible opportunity.

Deregulation? We can't wait! Why does this matter to Toronto? If you're a visitor coming to the city for the first time and have to run the Air Canada gauntlet, will you be predisposed to come back? This kind of service taints peoples' impression of the city. If we are serious about making Toronto a world destination we have to make end-to-end best practices part of the visitor experience. Without a high level of customer service Toronto will sink to the level of a tourism backwater in spite of our investment in great arts institutions.
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 06/10 at 12:58 PM

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