Tag Archives: air travel

the long way home

So my drama for the week… I lost my passport somewhere between clearing customs to the US in Vancouver and arriving at my hotel in Denver.

First time this has ever happened to me – normally I’m borderline facist about constantly knowing where my passport is. Sadly, it never turned up.

I almost managed to sweet talk my way onto my flight home in Denver (armed with a driver’s liscence, birth certificate and aeroplan elite card). But literally at the last second a manager got nervous and pulled me back. End result, I flew to Seattle, rented a car and drove home. It strikes me as curious that you can cross the border by at ground level with a driver’s license and a secondary ID, but you can’t at 30,000 ft. I mean, don’t misunderstand me, I’m an idiot for not knowing where my passport is, I just think it’s a curious fact.

Since I’m supposed to be back in the US a week Sunday I suppose I’m also about to test the speediness of Canada’s passport processing system. I suspect I’m in trouble – but who knows! (possibly some intrepid reader with a story to share…)

As an aside: between this event and getting food poisoning between Mississauga and Wallingford, CT last week I’m beginning to doubt my status as a veteran traveler.

Flying Porter

I was lucky enough to fly Porter Airlines today out of Toronto yesterday.

With yesterday morning’s snowstorm wrecking havoc everybody was struggling to get planes into Ottawa and Montreal – Porter however was running a mere 30 minutes behind schedule. A fact that shared and updated on their website. This allowed me to delay leaving for the airport.

Moreover, the convenience of flying out of downtown Toronto is out of control. Rather than be stuck in traffic on a Thursday afternoon I chilled out with friends until the last moment. Better yet, Gavin informed me of the free shuttle Porter runs between Union Station and the island ferry.

This is the first step in my break up with Air Canada – with whom I’ve had a long running love/hate relationship (in short, I hate everything except the lounge and the airmiles). Air Canada recently sent me another two useless “upgrade certificates” that, as I’ve discussed, are neither a reward nor an incentive, and so only serve to make me loath them further. Since I can’t make Super Elite on Air Canada, and I’ve got plenty of miles, I’m going to give my money to as many other airlines as possible. If competition can breed more airlines like Porter – then all the more reason.

As an aside, it would appear I’m not the only one smitten with Porter. Upon getting off the plane in Ottawa, Stephan Dion, Ralph Goodale, Ken Dryden and possible a few other Liberals were getting ready to board. I know several firms that – to manage risk – cap the number of partners/executives/specialists/etc… that can be on any one flight. Interesting to note that this is not the case with the Liberal Party of Canada. One hopes that, at least, the Leader and the Deputy Leader are not allowed to share a plane.

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.

Air Canada: A Case Study in how not to Negotiate with your Customers

Fellow travelers looking for a laugh MUST check out my buddy Beltzner’s list of Air Canada inspired haiku’s. Pure genius.

Speaking of Air Canada, WestJet is creating a network of lounges across the country. Great news. Finally some comprehensive competition for Air Canada and some negotiation leverage for the consumer.
Most Canadians don’t even know how badly Air Canada treats them. My favourite example? Air Canada will launch a plane with empty business class seats. In contrast, most US carriers will keep upgrading passengers until all biz class seats are filled (usually prioritizing by status). Why? Because it costs them virtually nothing and helps maintain brand loyalty. In negotiation theory we call that a low-cost/high-value option – something that costs one party very little but benefits the other party significantly.
Alas, Air Canada is essentially telling its customers: Yes, we’d prefer to keep these seats empty rather than reward you for being our customer, even in spite of the fact that it would costs us nothing.

Second example: Never trust what an Aeroplan rep tells you on the phone. I’ve had two friends who, coming within a thousand miles of getting status, proactively called Aeroplan to see if they should book additional flights to ensure they would meet the threshold. Both were told not to worry, there was no need. Yet, in the new year, Aeroplan refused to grant them status. Needless to say, they now ALWAYS book their international flights with another carrier. Nothing breaks trust faster in a negotiation than breaking your word.
Air Canada better pray WestJet doesn’t join a reward program like One World. Between the lure of lounges and reward miles the only thing faster than an Air Canada jet will be the speed at which business travelers jump to WestJet.

I don’t even have a hate on for Air Canada… but this guy does. Plus, the site is a good resource if you feel aggrieved.

(Added on Feb 13th: So I’ve heard through the grape vine that Air Canada does not fill its business class seats because it only packs enough biz class meals to feed the number of people who buy biz class seats. Is this really an insurmountable barrier? One wonders a) if the money saved from not tracking business class travelers might offset the cost of packing enough meals for everyone; or b) if anyone who were upgraded cared if they got a meal, I know I wouldn’t, frankly the extra leg room is far more valuable then airplane food. Was on a AC flight today where several seats in Biz Class remained empty…)

[tags]negotiation, air canada, airlines, air travel, travel[/tags]