Chris Watson - National Post - Saturday, July 03, 2004
This is a tale of two airlines -- or how Air Canada saved a weekend from disaster. We were booked on the newly launched CanJet service from Toronto to Midway Airport in Chicago last weekend. The airport is much closer to our destination than the huge O'Hare Airport way out of the city, which was the reason for picking this flight.
The flight was to depart at 8:20 a.m. and, after overestimating the rush-hour traffic, we checked in at the CanJet desk at Pearson Airport around 6:30 a.m. No problem -- bags checked by friendly staff, seats selected and we joined the very long lineup for U.S. immigration. We were finally through the other side and had more than an hour to wait, dawdling over cups of coffee. We arrived at the boarding gate 30 minutes before departure and could see the jet through the window. About 15 minutes before we were due to leave, a member of CanJet's staff casually announced that the flight had been cancelled due to mechanical difficulties. All would-be passengers rushed to the desk, where staff said the airline had no facilities to rebook us on another airline. Our options were to wait until the CanJet evening flight to Midway, but there was a strong chance it would be delayed, or come back the next morning, or get a refund. We could leave our bags with them for when we did manage to fly. We demanded our bags and were escorted through the immigration tide back to the main terminal. Using CanJet's 800 number, we were told it was another flight that had the mechanical problem and our jet had been switched to that flight while ours was cancelled. The evening flight was also cancelled -- and had been when the gate staff had offered to rebook us on it.
We had to get to Chicago that day, so spent the next hour on the free shuttle buses going from terminal to terminal trying to buy tickets. The prices on United, American and the Air Canada counter for last-minute flights were expensive, so we were getting ready to give up.
Then a quick call to a travel agent nabbed two Tango fares on an Air Canada flight early that afternoon to O'Hare at about the same price as the CanJet charter. The agent advised us to go back to CanJet and confirm we would get a refund for the cancelled flight. We had to argue with several staff members before the refund was promised -- and then only for the cancelled outward flight. We would have to take the return flight four days later. Having lost confidence that the plane would turn up and already having a new Air Canada return flight, we refused to leave and were finally told we could have a credit for the return leg, which we had to use within a year. Eventually, a supervisor on the telephone agreed to refund our money. Back at the Air Canada check-in with nothing more than two reference numbers given over the telephone by the travel agent, they found the bookings, despite the fact I had copied down one number incorrectly, and gave us printed copies of the outward and return flights.
Eight hours after arriving at Pearson and a second slow trip through U.S. immigration, we departed and had a pleasant flight with friendly service on Air Canada, arriving on time.
Coming back four days later, we arrived at O'Hare early and the Air Canada check-in attendant said there was an earlier flight leaving in 40 minutes if we wanted to try for it. We did, but the line for security snaked way down the terminal, so we decided not to risk it and stayed with the later flight. As we went to join the long line-up an Air Canada baggage handler took our boarding passes and said to follow him. He took us to the front of the security line and we were through in under five minutes, finding ourselves at the departure gate as they began boarding the earlier flight. We had more than two hours before our flight left and there were severe thunderstorms forecast. I asked the Air Canada attendant at the boarding gate about getting on the early flight and she took over. She tracked our checked luggage to X-ray and said she would make sure it made it on to the plane, got us two seats together and we boarded with the last few passengers. On board, we found ourselves in executive class. Again the flight left right on time with excellent service, arriving in Toronto early.
It was enough to restore our faith in Air Canada after trying to avoid it the last few years. The friendly, obliging service was appreciated and surprising after all these employees have been through in recent months. They saved our weekend after we were abandoned by CanJet -- which is now Can'tJet, as far as we are concerned.
© National Post 2004
About two weeks ago I had to buy a "walk-up" ticket at YVR for a flight that departed about 3 hours later. I was quoted the expected high fare. Then the CSA at the desk then commented, "you know, just behind you their in the process installing an internet kiosk so that you'll be able to book your flight online and get the better fare. The internet fares don't cut off unitl two hours before the flight time. It was supposed to be up and running by now, but as you can see it isn't. You've got 3 hours until your flight so you should have been able to use it, therefore, I'm going to override our system to get you the lower fare."
Thanks very much, saved me $300.00, checked me in, friendly, and helpful. It even allowed me to avoid the 30 minute check-in line that the pre-purchased ticket holders were standing in. Painlessly off to my gate in less than 5 minutes.
It is absolutely amazing . . . those who constantly hack on Air Canada´s level of service, I am convinced, really don´t have much experience with other airline brands.shankdown wrote:Flying with Air Canada Internationally and domestically, I always go to the Maple Leaf Lounge and enjoy the free drinks and snacks. You should see their bar... its just like a nightclubs, with beer on tap, and upsidedown bottles just hanging there ready for a glass to be placed under them... all free. And its good stuff, too: Tanqueray, Saphire, a few Glen's, Harvey's, Bailey's, and the list goes on. Have your free juice, pop, or mixers as well. Enjoy all the fruit, cookies, and cheese and crackers you can handle while you cruise the internet or watch sports. Its awesome. Well, I was shocked by my entrance into numerous Red Carpet Lounges in the US(United's Lounge) to find that they make their members pay for all booze, their selection of snacks was laughable, and they offer far less than AC does. A few months back, I got off the airplane in London after an 8 hour longhaul, and I walked into the AC arrival lounge with my bags, and was given a big private bathroom to shower and change my clothes in. After I got out of there and had some fresh croissants and juice with a newspaper, I felt like a brand new man. I was litterally 50 feet away from the all out, mid-morning Heathrow hell, though I was enjoying untainted peace and solitude. Well worth the cost of joining the club. AC does a far better job than they get credit for, and I hope they all vote YES. My2c.
A few days ago I went to American Airlines´Admiral Club lounge during my flight connection in Miami. I was absolutely shocked with what they offer-- drinks cost $5 USD, very little in the way of snacks, and they sell hamburgers or sandwiches for $7 USD!!! A shock . . . well, given it´s American, I guess I should have expected it.
Other afinity level lounges (including Maple Leaf ones) offer a selection of excellent quality (and complimentary) booze, internet, real food, magazines and newspaper . . . all in pretty tasteful and elegant settings. Doing long overseas trips, it is nice to take a shower in one, where they provide everything, to refresh and help reset your circadian clock.
-President Ronald Reagan
Did you get your luggage in the end?? So was it lost or just delayed???TZ wrote:last time i flew air canada was over xmas, ottawa - winnipeg return .. my flight was delayed 2 hours going to winnipeg, lost my baggage, got it back a couple days later.. on the way back to ottawa, 4 hours delayed and lost my baggage again, kinda funny story, but it wasnt funny at the time.
It seems less evil if you think "Delayed" rather than "Lost"...
In the immortal words of Groucho...
"Better late than pregnant!"