Not Just Another Air Canada Customer Service Rant

Posted by

I’m Blogging this from my Blackberry. It’s been a long day (still is). I’ve been on this Air Canada plane stuck on the Toronto tarmac since 4:30 pm (it’s now 9:45 pm). Over five hours. Everything from runway delays to de-icing to needing more fuel to more de-icing to changing runways to blah, blah, blah.
It’s cold and snowy. I’m tired. Everyone on this plane is tired. Can we blame Air Canada? You can’t blame them for the delays. I’m also more sick of Blog bitching customer service posts than having to sit here for five hours. But how does all of this affect the brand of Air Canada? I know, the majority of people will tell you that the Air Canada brand couldn’t get any worse. What fascinates me is how this brand is completely affected by outside sources as well. Friendlier flight attendants can’t make the snow stop and peanuts instead of pretzels won’t make the de-icing process speed up. Air Canada, to a large degree, is not in control of their brand.
Sound familiar?
None of us are in control of our brands anymore.
Truth be told, we never were in control. We thought, because we could scream louder than the lonely consumer, that we were in control. Through Social Media and other channels, consumers can scream as loud (sometimes even louder) than your command and control branding exercises.
Sitting here, it got me thinking that all brands are just like Air Canada. You can do everything right or you can do everything wrong. At the end of the day, how many people will look at a five-hour tarmac delay for a fifty minute flight and not blame Air Canada? Ironically, Air Canada is doing everything they can to stay alive in this environment… And it’s a bloody battle for the mind and wallet.
What stories do your battle scars tell in a world where every voice has an almost-equal volume? How do you deliver on your brand and the experience when all of these external factors will always affect your brand in multiples compared to what you can control (if you have any control at all)?
I believe that the entire notion of what a brand is keeps changing. I think the democratization of the voice is going change brands and the overall experience in ways we could have never imagined in the coming months and years.
Update: the flight left Toronto just after 10:00 pm. I am home now. Tired. Ready for sleep.


  1. I recently experienced the same issues with Air Canada – stuck on the tarmac in TO for hours after a red-eye in from the United States, before finally being disembarked to another plane, all of which delayed my arrival home by more than 5 hours. All without there ever being even a simple apology for the inconvenience, let alone a complimentary snack or beverage while we unwilingly wait for mechanical repairs and deicing.
    This experience came literally just days after trying to change my flight to leave home early due to pending weather … where I was repeatedly told that until it shows in AC’s system, they can’t change my flight. With great effort, I managed to get out early, but for the record the weather information ‘didn’t show in Air Canada’s system’ until after the last flight out of my city had left and my original flight was cancelled due to weather.
    This two-pronged negative experience has been shared with many friends and colleagues, all who give the same accepting shurg followed by a ‘that’s Air Canada for ya’. It seems the brand has come to develop and accept low standards.
    I was recently at a branding seminar lead by an internationally recognized customer service marketer who made the statement that Air Canada is the new Canadian Tire. Whereas once the bad Canadian brand was CT, it seems to improved its image leaving Air Canada holding the title. Everyone has an Air Canada story. Think about the NL guy who was recently invited by the GohstRider movie director to attend the red carpet movie premier and afterparty – due to flight delays he missed the carpet walk and the premier, made it just in time for the afterparty. Mechanical problems on his flight. Or what about the travellers who were rerouted from St. jhn’s to Gander, NL due to a huge blizzard. And instead of putting the already weary travellers up in a hotel in Gander for the night, they attempted to bus them to St. john’s in the blizzard – the plane can’t fly in it, but a bus can drive. Those passengers ended up stuck in snow and spent the night in a nearby Lion’s Club.
    Is it really that hard to make sound decisions for your passengers? Is it really that hard to extend apologies for inconveniences in flight delays? Is it too much to ask for a muffin while you sit on tarmacs for hours without food waiting for mechnical adjustments? It isn’t rocket science, its customer service. The smallest things can improve your brand tenfold with your customers.
    A chef recently said that good service in a restaurant can make up for bad food anytime, while good food can’t make up for bad service. The same applies to Air Canada, make your service good and it will compensate for bad, sometime unavoidable, experiences with other parts of the trip.

  2. Same story for me but in ottawa.Does anyone have an email address to one of the execs they deserve to have my story of my flight to hell with aircanada

  3. Got a great one. Arrived at counter at Las Vegas at 602 am and was told by Air Canada that baggage loading for 7 am flight ended at 6 and we’d have to take baggage thru security. we explained we had 3 bottles of wine worth $210 that we explained would be trashed and do you think they could care less. They claimed it was a custom requirements but the customs guys laughed and said Air Canada was the only hard ass in the terminal.
    $210 dollars poorer but then I was the idiot that chose Air Canada!!!!

  4. Have you seen the latest interview with an Air Canada representative at Vancouver?
    While all other airlines were operating relatively normally yesterday, Air Canada was cancelling flights all day.
    Their representative claims they ran out of de-icing fluid!
    Interestingly, the day before, the manager of the airport informred all airlines that the runways would be operational and that additional fluid had been purchased by the airport. He also got assurances that the airlines had sufficient fluid to cover all operations.
    It is Air Canada that is the problem! Westjet, please expand your service!

  5. Totally agree with u, worst is via the Pearson airport. I travelled to Toronto and return few weeks later with the samw piece of luggage and they said it was over-size and charge me for $100 or threaten not letting me through. One receptionist told me they have quota to charge customer or they get fine themselves. What a screw-up airline. sad

  6. A most unpleasant ordeal, trying to get my bicycle through check-in with air canada.
    The attendant’s demeanor and comments were filled with of a sort of nauseated-disgust and loathing of my need to check-in some special baggage; which, as she informed me — in the most belittling and undignifying detail I’ve ever experienced — was not prepared properly for baggage.
    I felt degraded by her attitude, as if I were worse than an insect, rather than the polite and well meaning customer that I am, who’s paying an extra 50$ to ship a fairly typical “special” item with me.
    She did however say — in an almost threatening tone — that there is a long list of rules that she could print out right here, which I asked her to please do, but instead she did not and just continued to speak down to me like some kind of low-life scum.
    I ended up going to special baggage to check in and they let the bike through as it was and said it wasn’t a problem as it is.
    In the end however,rather than service I felt as if I received something more akin to insult.

  7. You should have to work for them!! Not much better. If they treated their employees better, the employees would not be so disheartened, disgruntled & disagreeable. This, unfortunately, is passed on to the customer. AC, however, thinks they are so employee oriented! HA !!!
    If the public only knew, they would have more empathy for that sour faced check-in agent.
    The Inflt. crew often is without the tools to operate ie food! They do their best. All is in the name of cost cutting. So when you are charged $100. for over-sized bags, don’t expect a muffin during a delay. That goes into the kitty to pay out all the fat cats at the top when bonus time comes!

  8. I’m not a huge fan of AC but when you’re from where I am you have little other choice for travel. Just when you thought that AC could not sink any lower they are now charging a fee for the bulkhead and emergency exit seats calling them “preferred seats”. What a joke. Did they just realize that for the past 30 years these seats usually go first because of the extra leg room. Thanks for nickel and diming us once again.

  9. Well I just read many stories like mine tho I’m still experiencing mine. It all began at 6am in Victoria where I found my 1stop flight to St johns was really two stops one in tor and one in halifax. Once In Halifax waited on a mechanical problem. Then changed flights to 1 hr later to have that delayed by wind twice then cancelled. Then rebooked on a later 930 flight and enjoyed my food purchase only voucher which I was informed of how lucky I was to have achieved the 3 hour minimum delay package of 12 bucks Only to sit on the Tarmac waiting for themto fix the door handle for a 1/2 hour then go for de icing. Ok now it’s starting to be a little annoying. I know AC can’t fix weather but two mech delays? And I can’t buy a $10 beer with a $12 voucher really? Now that I had relaxed with a pint on my money off to St johns ….well almost I could see the lights of the city but couldnt land due to wind! Turned back for Halifax! Then a lineup for hotel and transport vouchers then a 1/2hr wait in cold for the transport then 1/2hr drive and hotel checkin. 3am Halifax time now 15hrs of travel and not there yet! Only 3hrs left to screw up tomorrow into an allday affair.

  10. I have been from the UK to Toronto loads of times. Only once have I had the misfortune to use Air Canada. After paying more than the other airlines I was subjected to a 7 hour delay. They were so kind as to give me a £5 food voucher which could be used only in two shops both of which were closed. As a pilot myself I know that we should have had the flight safety talk/video before the aircraft took off. We got to see what to do in an emergence ½ an hour into the flight. The flight attendants were rude and the in-flight entertainment system did not work! I will be using Air cheap and cheerful from now on.

  11. Is it really that hard to make sound decisions for your passengers? Is it really that hard to extend apologies for inconveniences in flight delays? Is it too much to ask for a muffin while you sit on tarmacs for hours without food waiting for mechnical adjustments? It isn’t rocket science, its customer service. The smallest things can improve your brand tenfold with your customers.

  12. This two-pronged negative experience has been shared with many friends and colleagues, all who give the same accepting shurg followed by a ‘that’s Air Canada for ya’. It seems the brand has come to develop and accept low standards.

  13. After flying with my dog on WestJet with no problems to my destination I decided to change my flight a fly with AirCanada as they had a direct flight. I thought that this service would create less stress on my pooch. So when I booked my dog her ticket the agent asked me if I had flown with her before and I said yes 2 days ago with WestJet. The agent then told me I would be fine. When I got to the airport the check in counter denied my dog boarding because her kennel was too small. This is absolutley rediculous as I purchased the largest air carrier that they make for a 22 pound dog and my dog is only 15 pounds. Now they wont do anything to help me. I have to buy a new kennel for her to be shipped with WestJet in cargo and the ticket is going to be over $200. I will never ever ever fly Air Canada again!

    Their ticketing staff act like they are doing you a favour by rebooking you on the next available flight 12 hours from now when you were already on a booked flight that was supposed to leave the day prior.
    Did you know that a customer service rep will not give you their name now (Union rules). I am assuming this is because they are tied of getting complaints.
    Sincerly, still at the airport in Montreal, arrived last night to go to Halifax. Currently booked on a POrter flight to leave in a few hours and Air Canada won’t give me my money back. I have to send an email and ask for it back and they won’t let me know for three weeks.

  15. First time flying Air Canada, and therefore, first time experiencing an exhausting 7-hour delay due to a “power” issue that “hadn’t happened in 10 years” said the pilot. Oh really? It sounds like it happens all the time!!!
    We left Montreal, were in the air for two hours, and then had to fly back to Toronto.
    F*** Air Canada. They offered everyone a $50 voucher toward a future flight. Like I’m going to fly with you again.

  16. Air Canada continues to show their lack of caring. Because my flight from Hong Kong was delayed an hour they rebooked my flight to Nanaimo for one two and a half hours later. The flight from Hong Kong had better than normal tailwinds and before departure the pilot said we would arrive in Vancouver on schedule. We land in Vancouver on schedule but still booked on later flight. An extra two and a half hour wait for a ten minute flight and as usual no apologies, it is just ops normal at Air Canada.

  17. Air Canada is the worst airline on the planet all they want is your money and once they have it they could care less about your customer service needs!! I will tell every person I know in Calgary and i know alot!! to fly any other airline at all costs!! What a poor excuse for a proffesional organization!!

Comments are closed.