This is the complaint I am about to submit through Air Canada's web form. I'm posting it here to summarize and to give them a place to post comments if they choose.
Also, a request: if any of you link to this elsewhere (which is fine with me; it's a public post), please let me know. I am mindful of the laws of lashon hara (hurtful speech) in posting this; I believe I am on the correct side of them, but I do want to make sure that any followup from Air Canada reaches the places my post(s) did. Thank you.
I recently flew with Air Canada for the first time, on my first solo international travel, and had a terrible experience. Air Canada errors and misinformation cost me a day of my vacation, delayed my return by a day, and cost me money due to those delays. Most of the Air Canada representatives I spoke with while trying to resolve these problems were indifferent and sometimes rude. You ruined part of my vacation and I want compensation.
I purchased a ticket that you offered (not an itinerary I assembled myself), AC8041/AC84 25-Jun. The first layover that you proposed looked tight to me but I'm a novice traveler, so I called your airline to ask about it. Your agent told me that this layover was sufficient at that airport (YYZ), and that all I would have to do is "get off the plane, wave a passport, and walk onto the other plane". Baggage would be checked through and I would already have my boarding pass.
Even if the flight from PIT to YYZ had not been an hour late in leaving, this would not have been true. Your online checkin system does not serve PIT, so I had to wait in line for 1:20 to get a boarding pass. Then the agent told me that I could only get the PIT->YYZ boarding pass and I would have to get the other one at YYZ. This is not what your agent told me.
Your phone agent misrepresented the process. He knew or should have known that advance checkin would not be possible. If I had known that I would not have bought this ticket.
Once I got to YYZ, having missed my connection, you first told me that I would have to wait TWO DAYS for the next plane to TLV and then grudgingly began looking for alternatives. Your agent at reticketing counter 16 c.6PM 25-Jun was the single helpful person I encountered in my journey. She was helpful but not especially proficient (she's the one who told me to wait two days); nonetheless she was eventually able to rebook me on a flight through Zurich with a 2-hour layover to TLV.
I was then told to go stand in another line to get my baggage retagged. When I arrived there were four agents at the desk; over the next quarter-hour three of them left and were not replaced. The lone agent then spent more than half an hour with one customer; I would have missed the flight to Zurich if I had not been able to flag down a passing employee and get my baggage tags. It turned out that this was a reticketing line but I had already been reticketed; why the people here weren't in the line I had been in is unknown.
With less than half an hour to departure and knowing that my meal request wouldn't make it onto the new flight (if there was even going to be a meal), I searched for something to eat and paid exhorbitantly for it. I didn't have time to be choosy; I had to take the first edible offering I found that didn't have too long a line. I had not been offered a meal voucher. For that matter, I was not even offered an apology at any point in this trip.
The plane to Zurich was an hour late and I missed my connection. Also, that final leg was operated by El Al, which requires checkin two hours in advance (I later learned), so that layover was unrealistic even if the plane had been on time. Your ticketing agent should have known this. I then sat in Zurich for another six or seven hours.
As a result, instead of landing in TLV Tuesday at 11:30AM, I arrived Wednesday at 2:30AM. I had plans for Tuesday that I had to cancel. I lost a day of my vacation.
On my return trip (AC85/UA8208 5-Jul) I arrived at the airport early, hoping to obtain a complementary upgrade as partial compensation for the damage you had done me. Instead I found that this flight was delayed EIGHT HOURS, and that your new itinerary would get me home approximately 15 hours late (assuming no further delays). This is unreasonable on its own; in addition, the previous day I had gotten a phone call about a serious medical situation back home. Since I was flying out the next morning I didn't try to rebook then. It is only because of this situation that your agent at ticket counter 37 c.10AM 5-Jul was willing to talk with me about rebooking. This agent was extremely polite and deserves commendations. She also went off-duty at 12:30, at which point I still didn't have a ticket, because the manager to whom she directed me was slow and somewhat hostile. This manager also did not honor the queue, repeatedly pushing me aside "because you'll be here all day anyway", and tried to get me to leave ("I'll find you later"). Since I had heard her tell someone else that she was closing her office as soon as this line of customers was processed, I did not take her up on that -- the chance of being stranded was too high. I got my ticket sometime around 2:30PM for an 11:10PM departure. I couldn't really go anywhere in the meantime, partly because I had baggage that I could not check and TLV doesn't have storage lockers. I spent the day sitting in the airport. Another manager (male, name unknown) gave me a meal voucher that time.
The flights home (United) were on time. Because of the rebooking, on the transcontinental flight I was stuck in a middle seat between two very large men who overflowed onto me, one of whom snored loudly. (I hadn't booked a red-eye and didn't have earplugs with me.) I arrived home Friday but basically lost the day to jetlag; with the original itinerary I would have slept at home Thursday night and been able to function normally on Friday. You cost me a day. Fortunately I made it home in time to say goodbye to my family member.
Because of the delay I incurred expenses for an extra night of kenneling and a taxi home from the airport (the person who could pick me up Thursday night was not available Friday).
To sum up: 1. The bookings you proposed were unworkable and your agents should have known that. I feel like I was lied to. 2. Even if the bookings had been reasonable, flight delays affected me a total of THREE TIMES on a single round-trip. 3. Most of your agents at YYZ were uncaring and sometimes rude. 4. I incurred the following extra expenses due to these delays: $26 meal at YYZ, $5.50 Internat access at Zurich, $43.50 kennel, $57 taxi. You should absolutely compensate me for that. 5. My ticket cost $1728. I deserve a refund.
Note that I am speaking here only of your ticketing and ground crews. The flight crews were professional and pleasant.
I have shared this account with the readers of my blog. I will also share your response. If you make things right, I will make sure people know that. The relevant blog posts are: http://cellio.livejournal.com/930425.html , http://cellio.livejournal.com/931959.html , and (this letter) http://cellio.livejournal.com/933168.html . You are welcome to post your own comments on these posts if you like.