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Dear Calin Rovinescu @AirCanada

Calin Rovinescu
President and Chief Executive Officer of Air Canada
7373 C´te-Vertu Blvd.
West Saint-Laurent, Quebec

Dear Mr. Rovinescu,

I decided to write to you, Mr. Rovinescu, rather than write to someone in customer relations. I’ve done that in the past and sometimes I get a response and sometimes I don’t. I would like a response in a timely manner and through lots of years of experience feel it’s best to go to the top.

The reason I’m writing to you is because of a recent frustration. A big frustration. One where I felt powerless.

I booked a flight using my hard earned points on Aeroplan, 355 days out, for a flight from Vancouver to Santiago, Chile via Toronto return. I paid an additional $50 each way for a seat with extra legroom (for a total of $200 + tax) for my husband and myself all the way through from Vancouver – both on the outbound and the return flight. All was well getting to Santiago. Thank you.

It was not so good coming home.

I checked in the day before and found that our seats on the Santiago to Toronto flight (a 10 hour flight) were now middle seats and my husband and I were 20 rows apart. How does that happen when you’ve paid for an upgrade? How do you correct it from afar?

My husband called the Air Canada office in Santiago and we got the predictable response – nothing we can do. Nice.

Then I emailed my daughter in Toronto who is very good at getting things done. I gave her all the information – Aeroplan numbers, booking references… hoping she could work her magic. She didn’t get my email that night but the next morning she jumped on the problem and spoke with a very sympathetic woman at Air Canada. After forty five minutes on hold off and on, she got us seats with extra legroom and we were seated together again. After all, this was a trip to celebrate our 30th anniversary.

Mr. Rovinescu I am writing to ask you what you would suggest to someone caught in our situation if they didn’t have someone in Canada to help them out? And how do seats, especially ones that were upgraded and paid for in the summer get so badly jumbled?

There are a few other issues I would also like to raise with regards to flying on Air Canada.

First the things I think you do well.

  • Your Air Canada website is easy to use if you can remember your Verified by Visa password.
  • I like not paying for checked baggage.
  • The in- flight entertainment system is excellent.
  • I appreciate that there are now electrical outlets available with most seats.

I think you could make improvements on the following.

  • Sometimes when I phone Air Canada I am put on hold for over an hour. Really. But usually in the evening, I get a live body very quickly. It would be nice if you could let people know what their expected waiting time could be.
  • Your food on international flights has gone downhill. It’s verging on terrible. I have flown on two smaller airlines recently – Air Kenya between Kampala, Uganda and Nairobi, Kenya and on Sky Airlines between Santiago and Calama in Chile. Guess what? On flights less than 90 minutes we got fed…for free. The food wasn’t great but it was pretty close to what we get fed on an Air Canada international economy flight.
"Sky Airline meal"

Sky Airline meal – on a 2 hour flight

  • An AOL travel story today on five things airlines don’t want you to know suggests that at least in the US sand bags are being used as ballast to balance the plane. Perhaps those two free checked bags weren’t such a bad idea and something you could revisit.
  • Safety is one of my pet peeves. In Canada I mostly fly on Air Canada and I have been on flights where people who were very obviously not capable of responding to an emergency were seated in the emergency row exit. On my flight from Santiago to Toronto (January 15, 2011) I sat beside a very lovely bright young woman from Brazil who spoke no English. Would she be able to read the safety card or understand the directions handed out in English in an emergency? I don’t think so.
  • We are all told on every flight to note where the emergency exit rows are located. But NEVER are we told what row numbers they’re in. We’re told the exits are over the wing. Great – but what rows are those? Yes we can look around but most people don’t – so why not tell them.
  • Air Canada’s on-time performance is the pits. My husband has been commuting every other week between Vancouver and Calgary – and what should be a hopper flight – is rarely taking off on time. I checked your website and only 78.4% of your flights were on time in the third quarter 2010. Late departures stress me especially when I have a connection. On time performance is important. Please make it a priority.
  • The price differential between Tango and Tango Plus fares is ridiculous and seems to be rising far faster than oil prices or inflation. It’s now $65 plus tax extra each way to accumulate status points on Air Canada. I’ve given up and instead spend the money on nicer accommodation. Needless to say my husband lost his status.  Over the course of the year (averaging 2 flights per week every other week right now) I figure that I can save a minimum of $3000 plus tax.

Mr. Rovinescu – please recognize that it is the customer and not the shareholder that keeps Air Canada flying.

I would appreciate a response on how to get action from Air Canada when you are not in Canada. I would like not to have a repeat performance on my next flight where I have booked and paid for extra leg room – which by the way is from Vancouver to Geneva and back via Milan and Toronto this summer.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Your sincerely,

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure – & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project – a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Churchwarden pipes says:

    Did you ever get a response from Calin?

  • Pierre Bachand says:

    I hv transmitted your letter to Mr Rovinnecu via internal mail. He will certainly reply soon.

  • Jose Fernandez says:

    Hike Bike Travel: I was checking the internet and I found your letter to Air Canada, just want to tell you I feel your frustration. I had a problem regarding my miles with Aeroplan and when I called customer service they only answer I got was: Send a letter and you will get an answer. I sent an email last week and I don’t get an answer yet. Hope to get anything soon.
    I moved to Canada 10 years ago and I use Air Canada for all my trips (pleasure and business). I have to recognize that Air Canada improved in the last 10 years but it is far away to be a five star airline. I am loyal, don’t know if is a positive or negative thing, but If i don’t get any answer from them, I will start to get a new airline and rewards company that value the loyalty of their passengers. Hope you get a reply soon about your point.
    Jose Fernandez

    • Jose- So many of us continue to be frustrated and it seems to boil down to the lack of communication and feeling powerless. I prefer the comfort of Air Canada still but the responsiveness of West Jet.

  • Jose Fernandez says:

    Agreed with you. I have a very good friend that used West Jet for a trip Toronto-Montreal-Toronto and he is so happy about their service. Too bad that West Jet don’t go to many destinations and/or have an alliance with other airlines that can make them a competitor with Air Canada. I think that’s the point here, Air Canada doesn’t have any competitor here, so they can do whatever they want.

  • Jose Fernandez says:

    Yes, that what we need.
    Yes, Porter Airline is a very good airline. Always on time, I used their service for routing Toronto-Montreal-Toronto. Cabin service is amazing, I would like to correct my comment, everything in Porter is great LOL. Now Air Canada invaded Toronto Island Airport, so you can flight from Toronto island also with them. Next time you come to Toronto try to flight with Porter, you will remember me :)

  • George Balmouch says:

    Dear Mr Ravinescu ,
    Do you actually know that the company you are heading has the worst customer service. The response time of you 1800 service between 50 — 140 minutes,I am not kidding !!!!. Air Butan has better response is 15 minutes..This is embarrassing for CANADA as a country. Shame on you.

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