Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fie on Air Canada

Getting home was a horror. All flights were canceled Sunday because of the hurricane, and we were rebooked for Monday. It was a two-legged trip: Halifax to Montreal and Montreal to NY. The first leg was fine and the Halifax airport and staff are a pleasure. There was an inexplicable half-hour delay in our arrival, and that's where the problems began. No one in Montreal was helpful or even cordial, and since the airport was nearly empty there was no excuse. They had us run (and in my current condition that's no small thing) to the furthest possible gate because they told us that without checked luggage we might make the connection. No one called the crew to hold the plane, though there were 25 people trying to make the connection. The gate agent was useless and snarky, and told us that the next flight had "gone mechanical". We had to wait about 4 hours for the next one. The security staff was too busy talking about Monday Night Football to help hurry things along. Passport control was less than helpful. Was this the first plane in the history of air travel to leave on time? It certainly seemed that way.

At that point there wasn't even a hurricane to blame. It hadn't affected Montreal, just Halifax. And Halifax was brilliant. An elderly gentleman asked us to complete a survey about our experience at that airport, and I scored them uniformly very good or excellent.

Needless to say, we could have handled the entire situation with equanimity if we'd just been told the truth, that we wouldn't make the connection and would have to cool our heels for the afternoon. Had they been in any way helpful the situation would have vastly improved. But to a man the service was -- in my favorite way of describing poor customer service -- unconscionable. I wasn't offered a wheelchair or a cart or anything to have made a difficult situation tolerable.

Anyone have the email address for the CEO of Air Canada?

There was an article just last week about how effective it can be to skip all levels and advise CEO's of customer service problems in their organization; they tend to be so insulated and isolated from the reality of the experience they deliver that they pay attention when an actual consumer with a real story reaches their in-box. I made these points in the article I wrote a few months back, and now I got to live it and experience it first hand. And it wasn't pretty.

I think we'll skip Air Canada going forward. We're not captive; there are other options. And we will -- in the modern manner -- make sure everyone knows about this and is forewarned.

Inexcusable. I know I'm missing some of the details of this misadventure, but I was hopped up on Vicodin so I could manage the walking (running) and the rest of it. I have a larger macro view of the whole mess. Nick has all the details, which I'm hoping he has time to chronicle so I can give the CEO the full measure with full detail of this complete, utter mess.

Someone came over to Nikki in Montreal to see if we would complete a customer satisfaction survey. She wisely demurred.


  1. Here ya go:

    From Tom - Ellen's friend..


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