January 13, 2007

Air Canada - A room full of monkeys?

I received a letter from the Canadian Transportation Agency the other day, regarding my complaint about Air Canada's treatment of my Granny and how they endangered her life by refusing her access. Of course, Air Canada's argument was that allowing her on the flight posed a safety concern (even though this would have left her stranded in Whitehorse, endangering her life).

Really, it could have all been avoided if the ticket agent had taken a few moments to get a better understanding of the situation, been a little more courteous, and used her own brain, and I might have been placated if Air Canada's customer complaints person had been a little less dismissive of how serious a problem this could have been. I would hate to see this happen to someone else, but that door's been left wide open.

Maybe Air Canada should hire Ms. Tarryn Elliott, the Complaints Investigator for the Air Travel Complaints Program who handled my case. It's not what I wanted to hear, but at least her letter shows a little bit of genuine compassion...

The Letter I Received from the Canadian Transportation Agency

January 4, 2007

This is further to your complaint filed with the Canadian Transportation Agency (Agency) concerning the difficulties you encountered when arranging travel for your grandmother with Air Canada.

First and foremost, please allow me to extend my best wishes to your grandmother during this difficult time. I hope her condition improves and wish her the best of luck during her treatment.

Concerning your complaint, I must advise you that the mandate of the Agency and more specifically, the Air Travel Complaints Program, is to ensure that a carrier has abided by its terms and conditions as found in its tariff. "Terms and conditions of carriage" are provisions contained in an air carrier's tariff that the carrier applies to all its passengers regardless of the fare paid. They spell out the various benefits and limitations associated with the air transportation service being provided. Terms and conditions of carriage cover a number of topics, including but not limited to, the carrier's rules with respect to flight cancellations, delays, schedule changes, and denied boarding due to overbooking.

With respect to Air Canada's tariff, the relevant information can be found in Rule 33, which states:

"Air Canada reserves the right to require a medical clearance from the company medical authorities if travel involves unusual risk or hazard to the passenger or to other persons (including, in the case of pregnant passengers, unborn children)."

Effectively, what this means is that carriers may require that a passenger with a medical condition submit to a medical examination by a doctor selected by Air Canada before allowing them to travel. While the situation is very unfortunate, it appear that Air Canada has respected the terms and conditions of its tariff.

While I truly appreciate the difficulties you experience, I trust you understand that the Agency cannot be of further assistance; therefore I will be closing your file.


Ms. Tarryn Elliot
Complaints investigator
Air Travel Complaints Program

cc. Gord McGregor, Air Canada Customer Solutions (By fax: 1-866-584-0380)

So, Air Canada's got "Terms and conditions of carriage" to hide behind. It reminds me of a story I once heard about a bunch of monkeys...

Some scientists locked ten monkeys in a room. In one corner of the room was a bunch of bananas. If one of the monkeys approached the bananas, all the other monkeys would get wet. It didn't take long for the monkeys to realise that, if one monkey went for a banana, they had better stop that monkey or else they would get soaked. The next poor monkey who went for a banana got beat-up by all the other monkeys.

The scientists removed one of the monkeys from the room and a new one was put in its place. Seeing the bananas, and not knowing what would happen, he went for them. All the other monkeys beat him up. It didn't take long for the new monkey to realise that, if one of the monkeys went for a banana, it was his job to beat that monkey up.

One-by-one, all the original monkeys were removed until none of the monkeys in the room had ever been soaked, yet the monkeys still beat-up any new monkey that tried to approach the bananas.

And that's a little like policy. It's put into place for a reason. In the case of Air Canada, it was put into place for the safety of its passengers (one would hope). But policy applied blindly causes problems of its own. And so, I have to ask, is Air Canada nothing more than a room full of monkeys?

I've gotten rid of my Aerogold Visa, I'm going to use up my Aeroplan points, and I plan on never flying with Air Canada again. Of course, I would encourage you to do the same, but it's your choice if you want to support a company that cares more about blindly following policy than it does about actually serving its customers well.

So, what are my next steps? Any suggestions?


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, welcome to the world of commercial muddlings. They are not obligated to have some human decency and help your grandmother out. As long as they don't blatantly break one of their ever so special tariff rules, they are free and clear of any responsibility. They operate for financial gains, not moral servitude. Sad, yet true story. It's not right, it's very frustrating and was unfair (to say the least, in this instance it was life threatening). Welcome to the world of big business. CF - Edmonton

Anonymous said...

I don't agree that just because it's a big business there are only profits and no values. While I might agree that Air Canada does not do much to help its customers, there are big businesses out there that value integrity, responsibility, and transparency.

Anonymous said...

Just as long as you don't go on to say that Telus is one of them! muahahhahahha


Meandering Michael said...

Not since they stole my money, anyways. Of course, to be fair, I haven't asked them to give it back.

Jim said...

I don't know what took me so long - I just found your Air Canada Sucks section- and I have to agree - Air Canada Sucks. As a Canadian living near Washington, DC, I used to fly Air Canada from National Airport to Pearson Airport fairly often. The staff were generally, pleasant, friendly, and helpful.

In 2004, two friends and I arrived at the Air Canada gate for our flight back to Washington DC - about two hours before our flight was scheduled to leave. At boarding time, we were told we weren't getting on the flight - but couldn't give us a good reason for not letting us board. It took us seven and a half hours to get back to DC on Air Canada. The flight takes about 15 minutes.

I have not flown with them since then. I make the trip by car - it's a hybrid - gets good mpg - and I have a pretty good idea how long the trip will take. I'd much rather sit in the car to make the trip than hang out at the Air Canada gate for eight hours.

Meandering Michael said...

Can't blame you, Jim. If you decided to fly with them now, they'll ding you for everything- including leg room! I'm not speaking from first-hand experience, though. I haven't flown with Air Canada in a long, loooong time. I figure they've lost over $50,000-worth of my business to date.