Air Canada and the failure of rewards

Yesterday I received my threshold bonus from Air Canada for flying too much.

What was it?  Two upgrade certificates to fly Business Class… if you pay for a Latitude Class ticket.

While I’ve always disliked this ‘perk’ Gayle D. recently explained to me in greater detail why this reward program is a total failure for customers.

To begin with, of her 15 or so friends (who are stuck with flying Air Canada regularly) she knows of only one that can fly Latitude class. (I don’t know anyone.)

As a result this threshold bonus is completely ineffective, both as a reward and as an incentive. It fails as a reward because I’ll never enjoy the ‘perk’ of flying business class since no organization I know of pays for Latitude class tickets. Conversely, it fails as an incentive for the same reasons. Because clients won’t pay for Latitude class, I can’t be incented to buy a Latitude class fare.

As a result, I’m willing to wager that at least 85% of Air Canada’s Latitude upgrade certificates go unused. This means that Air Canada chops down trees, send lots of mail and spends on advertising, all to flaunt a perk its customers will rarely, if ever, get to use. Frustrating? You’d better believe it.

God I hope Westjet creates a rewards program. Or that we finally adopt an open skies agreement.

For those wishing to commiserate over some more Air Canada mistreatment stories try Andrew Potter’s recanting of his experience. Of course, Beltzner’s Air Canada inspired Haikus still make me laugh. And not to be outdone, I’ve vented on the subject previously myself.

17 thoughts on “Air Canada and the failure of rewards

  1. Dave

    Hi There:
    I’m a WestJetter and a WestJet owner. A few years back I was a consultant logging trips every week to a multitude of destinations. I will admit to being an addict to the Aeroplan program. I accumulated a lot of points, but could never use them to go to anywhere of interest. Also, the other benefits were small, few and far between. When I first started flying WestJet it took some getting used to … Gate agents that are helpful? What’s the catch. Friendly flight attendants? Come on, what are you up to? My baggage got here on the same flight I did? There must be something wrong! No, that great service is just included in the fare. It didn’t take long for me to abandon the Aeroplan program for a better overall (and cheaper) experience with WestJet.

    Then – I was lucky enough to get a job at WestJet. I’m kind of like Victor Kiam in that sense – “I liked it so much, I bought the company”. Okay, in this case “I liked it so much I went to work for the company and became an owner at the same time!”

    I hope you’ll fly with us when you have the opportunity. We’d love to have you on board.

    Yours truly,
    Dave
    (a WestJetter and a WestJet owner)

    Reply
  2. Dave

    Hi There:I’m a WestJetter and a WestJet owner. A few years back I was a consultant logging trips every week to a multitude of destinations. I will admit to being an addict to the Aeroplan program. I accumulated a lot of points, but could never use them to go to anywhere of interest. Also, the other benefits were small, few and far between. When I first started flying WestJet it took some getting used to … Gate agents that are helpful? What’s the catch. Friendly flight attendants? Come on, what are you up to? My baggage got here on the same flight I did? There must be something wrong! No, that great service is just included in the fare. It didn’t take long for me to abandon the Aeroplan program for a better overall (and cheaper) experience with WestJet. Then – I was lucky enough to get a job at WestJet. I’m kind of like Victor Kiam in that sense – “I liked it so much, I bought the company”. Okay, in this case “I liked it so much I went to work for the company and became an owner at the same time!”I hope you’ll fly with us when you have the opportunity. We’d love to have you on board.Yours truly,Dave(a WestJetter and a WestJet owner)

    Reply
  3. David Eaves Post author

    Dave,

    I love that someone from Westjet would come and comment. I’m not holding my breath for a comment from Air Canada.

    Indeed, in my last post on the subject, a friend who works for Aeroplan berated me for suggesting that Air Canada should fill up its business class. He response rested on two points: that this would disincent people from buying Biz class tickets and that it would let the riff-raff in…

    The response was instructive on several levels.
    a) faulty logic: people who fly biz-class are generally not buying tickets with their own money, those who are aren’t going to ‘gamble’ that they’ll get the ‘unfilled’ biz seats
    b) operating culture: that riff-raff you are referring to are your customers; and
    c) competitive instincts: rather than criticize your clients, why not engage them? figure out how to make your service better?

    I may take you up on that Westjet offer. I’ve been thinking about flying Westjet domestically and other carriers internationally.

    Reply
  4. David Eaves

    Dave,I love that someone from Westjet would come and comment. I’m not holding my breath for a comment from Air Canada.Indeed, in my last post on the subject, a friend who works for Aeroplan berated me for suggesting that Air Canada should fill up its business class. He response rested on two points: that this would disincent people from buying Biz class tickets and that it would let the riff-raff in… The response was instructive on several levels. a) faulty logic: people who fly biz-class are generally not buying tickets with their own money, those who are aren’t going to ‘gamble’ that they’ll get the ‘unfilled’ biz seats b) operating culture: that riff-raff you are referring to are your customers; and c) competitive instincts: rather than criticize your clients, why not engage them? figure out how to make your service better?I may take you up on that Westjet offer. I’ve been thinking about flying Westjet domestically and other carriers internationally.

    Reply
  5. Dave

    Me again – if you are looking at flying internationally, have a look http://www.westjet.com and click on the Connection Search icon on the left hand side. Through this you can build a “virtual interline” schedule with WestJet and another airline (including British Airways, Qantas, Aer Lingus, Icelandair, and Etihad Airways). This will help you find a schedule that will work to get you from point A to point B almost anywhere in the world. You have to buy your tickets through two carriers to do this, and you have to carry your own bags from caroussel to re-check-in when you move from airline to airline. However, in our experiments with this we have found that you can often get a cheaper flight by doing so than if you book through a single carrier.

    Thanks for the “kudos” on our response to your blog. We have started watching blogs to help us improve (i.e. a new listening post for us), to help our guests with any questions they may have, and to resolve any complaints that we come acrosss as well as we can.

    Yours truly,
    Dave

    Reply
  6. Dave

    Me again – if you are looking at flying internationally, have a look http://www.westjet.com and click on the Connection Search icon on the left hand side. Through this you can build a “virtual interline” schedule with WestJet and another airline (including British Airways, Qantas, Aer Lingus, Icelandair, and Etihad Airways). This will help you find a schedule that will work to get you from point A to point B almost anywhere in the world. You have to buy your tickets through two carriers to do this, and you have to carry your own bags from caroussel to re-check-in when you move from airline to airline. However, in our experiments with this we have found that you can often get a cheaper flight by doing so than if you book through a single carrier.Thanks for the “kudos” on our response to your blog. We have started watching blogs to help us improve (i.e. a new listening post for us), to help our guests with any questions they may have, and to resolve any complaints that we come acrosss as well as we can.Yours truly,Dave

    Reply
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  10. Florence

    just dissapointed that i won’t be getting aeroplan reward points for booking some entertainers at air canada, we produce shows and personally pay for their flights. since air canada require you to be on the flight itself to get points, which is just impossible that i fly with them everytime, i will just play favorites and bring the business to westjet who honor it with airmiles! i will just book it with air canada in case no other plane can accomodate the dates we needed!

    just felt one should be at least get an incentive for bringing business frequently. kind of store loyalty, if you buy with them you get points to redeem on stuff you can actually use. they don’t ask if the items you bought is for personal consumption or a gift. what is important you bring them business and in return they give you an incentive. why can’t air canada adopt that?

    Reply
  11. Florence

    just dissapointed that i won’t be getting aeroplan reward points for booking some entertainers at air canada, we produce shows and personally pay for their flights. since air canada require you to be on the flight itself to get points, which is just impossible that i fly with them everytime, i will just play favorites and bring the business to westjet who honor it with airmiles! i will just book it with air canada in case no other plane can accomodate the dates we needed!just felt one should be at least get an incentive for bringing business frequently. kind of store loyalty, if you buy with them you get points to redeem on stuff you can actually use. they don’t ask if the items you bought is for personal consumption or a gift. what is important you bring them business and in return they give you an incentive. why can’t air canada adopt that?

    Reply
  12. coolFlyer

    I had similar situation at certain years ago. I have been flying cross ocean a couple times a year and received two upgrade certificates and my membership was upgraded after that. When I received my certificates, it made me feel like special and valuable. However, after I read through the tiny messages at the back of the certificates, I felt I was teased by the company.I confused by the way AC did because normally company would show their appreciation to their customers. Once I was in line to check in my bag at YYZ, I flew economic. I saw two people holding their golden member cards to check in at the few counters away from me. After the AC agent checked them in, she didn't do anything to check in their bags. Instead, she told the two customers to bring their own bags to the other side of the hall way and check in bags themselves. I was shocked when seeing this situation. Even though their attitudes and service style surprised me, I will still fly with AC if I travel within North America. Their services is better than others in North America in my mind.

    Reply
  13. coolFlyer

    I had similar situation at certain years ago. I have been flying cross ocean a couple times a year and received two upgrade certificates and my membership was upgraded after that. When I received my certificates, it made me feel like special and valuable. However, after I read through the tiny messages at the back of the certificates, I felt I was teased by the company.I confused by the way AC did because normally company would show their appreciation to their customers. Once I was in line to check in my bag at YYZ, I flew economic. I saw two people holding their golden member cards to check in at the few counters away from me. After the AC agent checked them in, she didn't do anything to check in their bags. Instead, she told the two customers to bring their own bags to the other side of the hall way and check in bags themselves. I was shocked when seeing this situation. Even though their attitudes and service style surprised me, I will still fly with AC if I travel within North America. Their services is better than others in North America in my mind.

    Reply
  14. AndrewHobs

    Some of the reward programs are just badly managed. Instead of them trying to come with a good idea, they should affiliate with good savings programs, as the blair rewards program, which have more experience in dealing with customers, sales and marketing. This saving programs have already gathered thousands of clients, they could easily communicate the offers, they could convince the consumers to buy an expensive ticket, already having a discount, because of the points accumulated, in order to make use of the upgrade certificates they are giving away. I would personally much prefer to accumulate points from a various of sources and then spend them all on flights rater than fly for a couple of years in order to afford an upgrade certificate.

    Reply
  15. AndrewHobs

    Some of the reward programs are just badly managed. Instead of them trying to come with a good idea, they should affiliate with good savings programs, as the blair rewards program, which have more experience in dealing with customers, sales and marketing. This saving programs have already gathered thousands of clients, they could easily communicate the offers, they could convince the consumers to buy an expensive ticket, already having a discount, because of the points accumulated, in order to make use of the upgrade certificates they are giving away. I would personally much prefer to accumulate points from a various of sources and then spend them all on flights rater than fly for a couple of years in order to afford an upgrade certificate.

    Reply
  16. Lcsmesquita

    Yes, the upgrade certificate are garbage (or better recycling material!). I just wish they would stop sending them. It just becomes an irritant. Recently I had to fly from TO to Vancouver and paid what I thought was an exhorbitant price ($1200 return). I was surprised to learn that to reach the minimum Tango Plus eligible fare would cost close to $2000. Who pays $2000 to fly to Vancouver? What a stupid program!

    Reply
  17. Aircanadasucks

    I have 2 SWU and 4 NAU certificates that are completely usesless as I have not been able to afford the ‘free’ upgrade. It is insulting.

    Anyone want them?

    Reply

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