Bad experience with Air Canada

Mar 3rd, 2008, 10:52 AM
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Bad experience with Air Canada

I was hesitant to post this but since I have appreciated other people's candor on this board I thought I would go ahead. Our last trip was on Air Canada and it really didn't hold up to the other airlines we have flown to Europe. I think in the future we will pass on Air Canada as an option.

We were scheduled to fly from Seattle to Toronto then to Munich. On the first flight they made an announcement that the entertainment system on the plane was not working and we could go to a website to get vouchers as a sort of pay-back.

On the second flight Toronto to Munich they announced that they would be serving a hot meal. Then an hour later they came on and said "sorry our ovens aren't working. We will serve you the cold portion of the meal, but you can go to a website and get a pay-back voucher." An hour after that they served us tray with carrot salad, a roll and butter and a piece of cranberry bread.

The entertainment system was a big screen at the front of each cabin (looking around someone's head)that showed "A Beautiful Mind" on the way over and "Forrest Gump" on the way back. Not exactly first run movies. On top of that they changed our pre-selected seats for the trip back across the Atlantic. You guessed it, middle seats.

Sorry for all the whining. Just keep it in mind if you have a choice other than Air Canada.
AisleSeat is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2008, 11:39 AM
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Ouch. If this was your first experience with AC, I can understand how you were disappointed.

I fly AC a great deal, typically 36 to 40 flights a year. I think you've zeroed in on the one characteristic that is AC's Achilles heel: inconsistency. The majority of my flights are on time with new or recently refurbished equipment and good crews. They have gotten me to where I want to go comfortably and safely, and have pulled rabbits out of the hat in bad weather: three times recently protecting me on later flights when storms closed the airport and calling me at home to advise me of my new itinerary.

But you still run into the occasional cranky gate agent, the new entertainment system (personal screens and in-flight entertainment on demand) has been plagued with gremlins, and there are still aircraft that haven't been refurbished to the new AC interior (sounds like you got one of those on your Toronto-Munich leg).

They're better than they used to be. I remain optimistic that they will continue to improve.

AnselmAdorne is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2008, 12:59 PM
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Hi AS,

Why do you think that they call it cattle class?

This sort of thing happens all of the time.

ira is online now  
Mar 3rd, 2008, 02:11 PM
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I regularly fly with Singapore Airlines to Europe, although not trans-Atlantic. I always travel 'cattle class', and 'that sort of thing' has never happened to me on Singapore. The in-seat entertainment has always worked (and there must be more than thirty movies available on demand, as well as games etc), the service is impeccable, and food and drink are supplied regularly as well as on demand. The planes are always clean, and, more often than not, quite new. All this makes the twenty hours to Europe quite bearable. 'Service' is something over which ALL airlines can exert some control, and it is in this area above all that the main Asian airlines excel.
adeben is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2008, 02:24 PM
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The worst flight we've ever had was with Air Canada. They lost our luggage for three days on the way to Europe AND on the way back (all clearly tagged inside and out and we checked in more than 3 hours ahead of the flight). The FAs were surly. The ground staff were arrogant (when we complained about our luggage being delayed for 48 hours on the way back, the AC rep snapped "you should be grateful we're getting it back to you at all.")

After that experience, we simply crossed AC off our list of transatlantic air carriers. There are plenty of other birds in the air to choose from.
BTilke is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2008, 02:30 PM
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I understnd that equipment sometimes fails at just the wrong time. When it is on two flights in a row I begin to wonder if the persoon that works on the entertainment system and the galley oven is the same guy who works on the engines.
AisleSeat is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2008, 02:53 PM
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Like Anselm, I have to say that if this was your first experience, I can see how you were disappointed.

In the following, I'm not dismissing your experience, just offering some perspective.

I'm guessing you flew one of AC's older 767s. I have to confess, I've grown fond of those 767s - they've taken us on many happy trips to London, even if they are sans the latest entertainment system. I guess one doesn't miss what one has rarely had. I actually prefer watching old movies - given that one stands a high chance of being interrupted by the flight deck with this or that announcement ('turbulence - please be sure your seat belt is fastened' etc. etc.) or by people squeezing past one, etc. etc., I'd just as soon not have such interruptions ruin a first-time viewing.

*Late edit* I have just read your comment about engine safety. You can fault AC for a lot of things, but their safety record is pretty darn good, especially considering the kind of weather they fly in. I also wouldn't equate up-to-date planes as being necessarily safer. The Swissair disaster occurred with a plane that had what was then the latest on-board entertainment system.


I agree it isn't acceptable to have poorly maintained ovens such that these didn't work on the day you flew. That said, food service can be suspended for all kinds of reasons beyond any airline's control (they will stop serving during turbulence, for example) so one should ideally prepare for the worst and pack a few nourishing snacks in case this happens just when one is famished. Take heart that eating lightly generally makes it easier to adjust to jet lag.

I too would be displeased to have my pre-selected seats lost, especially if one of the reasons I booked AC's "Leisure" vs their Tourist" fare class of economy (called 'Tango' and 'Tango plus, respectively, on their domestic routes) was to have such seat selection. However, that said, all airlines put weasel words in their fine print to the extent that seat selection isn't guaranteed, and I have heard of this happening with other airlines.

Bottom line, if the ticket price and the routing was otherwise acceptable, I wouldn't write them off just yet.

Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2008, 03:14 PM
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Often it is NOT when everything works that you can discern one airline from another. It is WHEN things are not working and how the passengers are treated, that distinguishes the good ones from the mediocre and bad ones.

I live in Canada and often there are no choices but to use them; but if there are options, I would rather fly with Cathy Pacific, Singapore, Quantas, JAL etc. etc.
Johnmango is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2008, 03:52 PM
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JohnMango, I agree. As I waited on the service I was sitting there thinking how I might have done it better. First, I would have had my most diplopatic flight attendents out in the cabin chatting it up and making peace, rather than hiding in the back. They had at least 4 flight attendents for "cattle class" and they were all back there working on the oven.

I remember a flight into Mexico a number of years ago that was hour late taking off then had to go back to the airport for more repairs. Now I would be the first to agree that they should go back for repairs if it is endangering the flight. All the way out and back the captain was on the pa apologizing and making jokes about it. When we finally headed out they apparently told the flight attendents to "open the bar". They came around again and again with champaigne or your choice of spirits. When we finally got to Mexico City no one cared that we were late.
AisleSeat is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2008, 03:53 PM
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make that "diplomatic flight attendents" .... sorry, too much champaigne.
AisleSeat is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2008, 06:38 PM
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We flew AC back from a cruise, Ft Lauderdale to Victoria b.c. via Montreal . Our flight to Montreal was cancelled, after being delayed by an hour for " technical reasons" . They then could not reschedule our family of five to fly out of Montreal until two days after( economy seats were full) ,, SO, after we sort of said, hey give us a break we have three kids here, well, they put us in a hotel overnight in Montreal, gave us dinner and breakfast vouchers, taxi vouchers, , and then flew all five of us FIRST CLASS( we were cattle class) from Montreal to Vancouver . We thought they did a great job helping us out.

BTW , I don't think their prices to Europe are very good, so last year I flew hubby out to Europe on Zoom , premium economy , which was almost the same as economy on A/C which he said was fine, and this year I am booked on Zoom myself as it came out a better deal on Zoom then A.C.
bozama is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 08:24 AM
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From Canada to UK you may want to check out Canadian Affair. I think they are partnered with Transat and Thomas Cook, and sometimes they have good deals. I have never flown with them.
Johnmango is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 09:08 AM
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I am sure if we wait long enough someone will come along from almost every airline flying and with horror stories even WORSE than yours.

I AGREE, it does leave a bad taste in your mouth and, unfortunately, it is not the exception to the rule these days.
Dukey is offline  
Mar 5th, 2008, 11:19 AM
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Thanks. I'll look forward to my flight from Munich to LAX via Torronto in June. First timer on AC. But then again, I'm flying on my ff miles, so I shouldn't complain.
Togo is offline  
Mar 5th, 2008, 04:20 PM
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I had to laugh about the '" movie choice" complaint ...
with long lineups, security
restrictions, nightmarish airports (CDG), lousy food ( or no food on 5 hour flights), the last thing I give a fig about is the movie on the flight. Anyway, who can please everyone's taste in film.
danon is online now  
Mar 5th, 2008, 05:45 PM
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Lufthansa - Frankfurt.

We board and get settled, then the captain announces that the aircrafts computer system was not working and they would put the aircraft out of service.

We sit on the plane for three hours while they find a new aircraft. Would it have killed them to let us back into the terminal?

Well, water and sandwiches were served after the first 2 hours. No champagne.
richardab is offline  
Mar 5th, 2008, 05:54 PM
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I also fly AC a lot. Probably 500 + flights over a lot of years. Like all airlines (I have also flown many others) they will have problems. But overall, they usually get me where I am going pretty much on time with decent to good service.

Now, let me tell you about my Air Transat flight from hell & why I'll never fly them . . .

Ian is offline  
Mar 5th, 2008, 09:42 PM
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Most of the complaints mentioned in preceding posts used to be not uncommon on the route from Europe to Australia. That was when the services were mainly run by European airlines such as Alitalia, Olympic, KLM, Air France, Lufthansa and British Airways. Now none of those airlines are still flying this route (except British which has a sharing arrangement with Qantas). They have been driven from the market by Asian airlines (Singapore, Malaysian, Thai) that deliver a level of service seemingly beyond the capabilties of the Europeans. (Qantas would be in trouble too if its hub wasn't Sydney!). The new rivals for the Asians are airlines from the Middle East such as Emirates who seem to have learned the 'quality of service' lesson. The real issue might be that, so far, there are no discount airlines on the route, largely because it is too far to fly without a 'full service' regime. Could it be that the existence of many discount airlines on the trans-Atlantic route has driven down the overall standards?
adeben is offline  
Mar 6th, 2008, 05:20 AM
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"Could it be that the existence of many discount airlines on the trans-Atlantic route has driven down the overall standards?"

adeben, from my perspective standards haven't declined all that much (if at all.)

- When many people here speak of "Service", they mean the onboard details like meals and movies. To me, far and away the best index of service is in the fundamentals: how often a given route is served, and at what times of the day. Very few discount carriers serve my city, and when they do, it is only seasonally, and perhaps once a week for any given route. AC still offers me daily service to Paris and London (although the route isn't necessarily direct.)

- As with cars and computers, technology has improved over the years. Planes fly faster now than they did in the sixties and even the seventies. "Onboard entertainment" - now expected as de rigeur, was restricted back then in many cases to the airline trade mag in the seat pocket. So overall, from my standpoint, standards in this area are improving.

- The dry air at high altitudes dulls the sense of smell, which in turn means that meals on board an aircraft can never compete with those served on the ground. Not to mention that the realities of air travel generally means that cooking facilities are limited. (Not to mention cooking methods - I don't think you can get steak flambe even on Air Force One!) Face it: in general, airline meals are at best something to keep the wolf from the door, or maybe even just something to pass the time. Michelin has never awarded a star to an airline.

- On long haul flights featuring aircraft with a 2-3-2 configuration, that means 1 out of every 7 people flies in the dreaded middle-of-the-middle. With a 2-4-2 configuration, the ratio rises to 1 in 4. Nothing to do with discount or major, just intrinsic to the realities of fitting out a widebody plane.

- Technology has also improved both the baggage carousels and the ability to track a bag if it goes AWOL. Baggage 'tags' no longer exist - as you know, they use heavy tape.

- In short, for those longing for 'the good old days' - be careful what you wish for.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Mar 6th, 2008, 06:18 AM
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Ian, what happened on your Air Transat flight? My main impression of AT is how cramped it is, but everything else was OK.

For me, AC has been fine, but I pay very little attention to on-board entertainment. As for meals, most are forgettable, of course. KLM was the best for meals, in recent memory. My only slight complaint with AC is that it uses Heathrow, and that has resulted in delays.
WillTravel is offline  

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