What Service Isn't

Air Canada cancels their 5:30pm flight at 9pm. Not the night before, three and a half hours after it was supposed to leave.

They have no one there to tell everyone what to do. So you give up and leave. You find a cab. You find a hotel. You call reservations, wait on hold for one and a half hours, while paying US roaming charges I might add, and they rebook you through Chicago, which now turns what would have been a 2 hour flight into a 6 hour journey. The person you are talking to has no idea if they will cover your hotel expenses or how to submit your claim.

You show up the next morning and you discover that you have been booked on United and United is charging you to check a bag and get a seat. You hand over your credit card. Why I am paying additional charges to have Air Canada fly me out I have no idea.

You arrive in Chicago and your flight has been canceled from Chicago to Toronto. You walk up to Air Canada and say I need a flight. They say your with United and you quietly explain that no your are not. They insist that you go to United Customer "Service" (I use the term loosely) and there you find a line of 30 people and they are moving 1 person about every 5 minutes. You do the math. You call Air Canada reservations, wait on hold for an hour, while still in line, and still paying US roaming charges, and they say okay we will rebook you on a flight. They tell you see the agent and they will give you a seat and will re-route your luggage. Why the first Air Canada agent I walked up to didn't do this in the first place is beyond me.

You go see the Air Canada agent again, line up again for another 30 minutes, and he can't fit you on the plane, but he is the first customer focused person you have seen so far and realizes that you have been through a very messed up situation. He upgrades you to business class free of charge. Thank you! Why I am so happy at that point I have no idea but my joy was short lived. I then ask about my luggage. He explains he has no idea and that he shouldn't even book me if I have luggage with United. I stare dumb founded. He says no worries he will ignore it. I still ask "how do I get my luggage"? He suggests I go to United baggage claim, see if I can find it, and if I can go back out through security, go to the ticket counter, check it, go back through security and all will be good. I say your kidding?

As of this writing I have given up finding the luggage and am just hoping that they don't cancel my next flight. This is not customer service. Problems happen but it is how you deal with them that creates opportunities. If the flight had been canceled and Air Canada accepted responsibility and guided me through getting home I would have been impressed with how they dealt with a tough situation and I would have chosen to fly with them any chance I have. Instead they have made their problem my problem and at every step made the situation worse. I now know why they are once again heading for bankruptcy and it has nothing to do with a recession.


Update from Toronto. Yes I made it. No luggage though. Surprised? No. I go to Air Canada to file a claim. They say no can do, go to United. I go to United and they say, and I quote "They can't just keep sending people over like this." and they send me back to Air Canada. Air Canada tries to balk, I say no way, and after a day and a half of trying to get home it was pretty obvious that I was about to go postal. They say okay we will file your claim. Once again I am happy. But why? Why am I happy that this really messed up situation has been finally accepted by someone and they will do something about it. Happy that I am leaving with no luggage and no idea when I will get it. Because they won't make any promises. Crazy. A couple of minor tweaks in this whole thing and I would be talking about how well they dealt with a bad situation. Instead I am dumbfounded with how dysfunctional they are. Porter Airlines here I come.

Seriously though, this is not service, if your organization moves responsibility for what you provide to your client what purpose do you have in the value you create for them? None. And if they realize they are paying for nothing, then they will go elsewhere as fast as they can. Right?