An “amazing” experience on Air Canada — what the heck is going on?


jazzDo airlines suddenly care about their customers? Well, it may be a bit premature to say they all do, but some of them seem to be making a serious effort. And I’m not just talking about British Airways, which has promised to compensate victims of its latest fare error.

Air Canada is in the game, too. Just listen to Yang Hermes, who was on a recent Air Canada Jazz flight from Norman Wells to Vancouver with a connection to Asia, and had — his words here — an “amazing” experience.

By the time I got to the airport I realized I forgot my mobile and I could not do without it.

When I got to the check-in counter at a bit past 7 p.m., I asked politely if I could be put on the last flight of the day instead (which was at 9 p.m.) so I could have someone bring the phone to me.

The agent found my reservation and told me that I checked in for the flight already and if I would like to change my flight there would be charges. Then, amazingly, instead of looking at me impatiently and asking for how I would like to pay for the change fee, she asked me how come I wanted the change anyway.

I was totally surprised by this since Air Canada Jazz has a monopoly on this route and they, in my past experience, did not really care what or why a passenger wanted something; the answer was always NO or “How would you like to pay for that?”

So the counter agent calmed me down and wanted me to make sure there was someone to send the phone for me, then she radio’d the gate agent and said that she would be changing the flight for me. Then she printed my boarding pass and checked in my luggage without saying another thing. “This way you’d have more than ample of time before your flight,” and she smiled and handed me my boarding pass.

How nice. In an era of “no waivers, no favors” not charging a change fee was a meaningful gesture. But there was more.

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When I called my friend who was supposed to bring me the phone on a pay phone, he said he was already close to the airport. Then he suddenly realized that he was in such a rush that he forgot to bring my phone with him.

“Oh my God,” I thought. I really panicked because I was already on the last flight out and if I missed that flight too I would also miss the rest of my flights out of Vancouver on the same night. So I cleared the security and went to my boarding gate to find the agent. She saw me and she sounded like she was worried for me too! She asked if I got the phone yet and I told her the situation.

She calmed me down and she promised that she would hold the flight for as long as possible for me, since it was the last flight. Usually they have a policy of 25 minutes gate cut-off, but she held the flight until five to 9 p.m., and amazingly the flight still left on-time!

She even communicated my situation with the airport security staff so they could help me speeding things along, and she even made special flight announcements for me so I could hear her outside waiting for my phone. When I got on board the flight attendant gave me a genuine smile and congratulated me and escorted me to my seat. I would not have been as impressed by all this had it been a regular day flight, but being the last flight of the day it meant that these amazing people were actually working outside of their time to help me.

What great people.

It is so unusual to hear about going-the-extra-mile service on an airline that I had to publish this story. Hermes agrees.

I know Air Canada has a relatively low reputation in Canada as people — myself included before — usually sneer at them for poor service.

It really made my day, and not just because I saved the 50 dollars change fee, but our entire exchange was sincerely personal and caring. I know the airline industry makes a lot of money from ancillary revenue, but it is nice to be reminded that the agents that we face everyday are just people too, and since they’re not pocketing whatever fees we pay to the big company, we should not treat them with the attitude we have for their employers.

How true.

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(Photo: Eric Begin/Flickr Creative Commons)


Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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