Air Canada and poor baggage handling

Air Canada is not known for their superior customer service, but after this story was published, I have begun questioning whether they understand customer service at all!   At the core of customer service is setting expectations and communicating to the customer. In many cases, companies don’t have to solve your problem to satisfy you, they just have to manage your expectations.

As a common practice, Air Canada unilaterally decides to remove bags from passenger airplanes when their cargo hold is overloaded due to size or weight.    This is news to me and I have travelled on Air Canada frequently.  Apparently this happens often, more frequently with smaller planes.  What gets me fired up is that Air Canada does not notify its passengers that it is pulling their bags from the airplane.  This critical information will allow customers to make informed decisions as to what to do.

Lack of communication to the customer is blamed on the last minute decisions to pull bags, claiming that Air Canada doesn’t have enough time to let the customers know.   I would estimate this has a lot more to do with not having to face an irate customer and cause delays while a discussion takes place.

Air Canada’s outsourced call centre is having challenges when it comes to handling these types of calls. The call centre is likely well equipped to handle standard customer requests, but when real-time information is essential (i.e. do I wait in the airport for my bag, do I go on with my trip and hope the bag appears, do I buy new clothes and supplies),  they need local staff to answer these questions.  The local staff fails at any customer service, and pawns off the issue to the call centre.

Air Canada has failed once again on setting expectations (i.e. “your bags may be pulled from this flight if it’s overloaded”), as well as communicating with customers (i.e. “your bags have been pulled, they will travel on another plane and arrive 2 hours after you do”).  If they wanted to wow their customers, they could go further and offer to send your bag from the airport to your hotel, but let’s focus on baby steps.

Customers, who cannot make informed decisions and who are caught off-guard by some unexpected and very preventable consequence, will have a terrible customer experience.  These customers are likely to complain to the company as well as go to the competition the next time they need similar products or services, even if it costs more.  If Air Canada keeps this up, WestJet will soon be number 1 in Canada.  More on Westjet in my next post…

Readers:  Have you had similar experiences with airlines (or any company) failing to set expectations and them making it worse by not communicating with you?

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4 Responses to Air Canada and poor baggage handling

  1. Andie says:

    Traveling is a luxury, one that we choose to do. Most companies get away with the poor, or should I say lack of, customer service because they are confident that their customers will return. We can ask, do we travel with Air Canada where we risk our luggage being pulled or do we go with American Airlines where we have to pay both ways to get our luggage on the plane. One thing I can say for sure is that I never knew that my luggage had the possibility of not arriving at my destination with me. That is something their customers should probably be more aware of. Complaining to the company after the fact is pretty useless, you’ve already paid them and they can offer, “I apologize for your inconvenience”, but that is most likely all Air Canada will offer. It’s what customers face when they are powerless against a large company, and all we can do is choose from the lesser of all the evils when booking a trip.

    • Support Spy says:

      @Andie good point, you can do some research to decide what the best airline for you is but ultimately you are at their mercy when things go wrong. As you say American Airlines charges for bags, while Air Canada may pull your bags. WestJet charges to reserve your seat choice. It all depends on what’s most important to you. I’m guessing having your bags arrive at your destination is probably in the top 5. Thanks for the comment!

  2. ed says:

    I have had a similar experience , I was in Montreal returning to Toronto with Air Canada,I asked the lady at the counter if I was able to leave on a earlier flight and her reply was that would be $125 more sir, I said but the flight is half full and she replied that’s what it is sir. I replied to her that I would sit for 2 hours and wait for the next flight ,she did not care.I now fly West Jet.

    • Support Spy says:

      @ed Thanks for sharing this story. I hear more and more of this type of story. The cost of the flights now appear to be very similar when comparing WestJet and Air Canada. You will find that there are extra costs with WestJet for some of the smaller things like pre-booking your seat. However with Air Canada they appear to have no flexibility when it comes to some of the more significant things. If you decide pre-booking your seat is a good idea, the extra few dollars for flying WestJet is well worth the ‘night and day’ customer experience. I don’t have any experience of trying to switch flights ‘on the fly’ but I would guess that WestJet would accommodate this.

      Has anyone out there tried this with WestJet or other airlines?

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