An Open Letter to Rupert Duchesne, President & CEO, Groupe Aeroplan

November 30, 2009

Dear Mr. Duchesne,

Over the last little while, your company, Aeroplan, has managed to consistently annoy me. But the other week, Aeroplan raised the stakes and made me angry enough to write this little rant. I've had over two weeks to cool off, and I still feel like something needs to be said. Aeroplan has crossed the line from merely nickel-and-diming, and into anti-consumer behaviour, in my books.

Before I get to what brought on such high dudgeon, let's talk about the minor annoyances, shall we?

First, your e-mail policy. Since January 2009, Aeroplan has e-mailed me 66 times. That's at least once a week, and sometimes two, or even three times. And the year's not out yet. Even my own mother doesn't e-mail me that often. I fly two or maybe three times per year. Do you really think I enjoy updates from you 3 times per week? I'd opt out, but I like to see my statements every now and then. Although I don't understand why you feel the need to both e-mail and snail mail them to me.

Second, your Classic vs. Avenue rewards redemptions. These days, if I want to fly at the base rate of 25,000 points for a cross-Canada flight from Vancouver to Montréal, my best options seem to be flights that stop in Calgary, then Winnipeg or perhaps Ottawa, often landing me a full day later than my departure time. Those aren't rewards, those are punishments. I looked into going to Montréal this summer, and the non-stop or single stop economy fare would have cost me 85,000 points using Avenue rewards. 85,000! You might as well call them Dead-End rewards. I only fork over those kinds of amounts on business class. Which is exactly what I wound up deciding to do, using more points than I should have to. Maybe the rewards cost so many points because you are wasting so much money mailing me paper statements on top of all that e-mail. Next you'll be telling me that you have plans to "upgrade" your rewards program so that Classic rewards take me through stops in each province, with an overnight in Saskatoon and a second one in Ottawa: because why not see the entire country for 25,000 points?

Third, your phone help. When I need phone help from Aeroplan, I am invariably traveling, because I have no web access. Which means I am paying expensive long distance. Which means I do not want to be taken through some silly voiceprint system that doesn't want to work if the cell phone signal is at all dicey. Should I want to pay $0.35 per minute just to be put on hold for 20 minutes? Only to be told that "sorry, if you miss that flight because of the hurricane rampaging up the coast, we won't be able to get you home for 5 days"? Maybe that's OK in your books. But not mine. Lucky for me I didn't miss that flight.

But let's get to the dudgeon, shall we? You see, last week, my husband and I did miss a flight. He'd redeemed some points for a round-trip Vancouver-Montréal, with a stopover in Toronto. Said "stopover" was really us then taking a package that flew us on WestJet to Jamaica for a week. OK, sure, maybe we should have just stuck to the Star Alliance network, but apparently either the timing or the pricing didn't work in our favour. Unfortunately, our Wednesday WestJet flight back from Jamaica was delayed, causing us to miss our evening Air Canada flight from Toronto to Montréal. Now here's where I say, mea culpa, we didn't leave enough time between connections to account for any delays. We tried to contact Aeroplan to provide the system with a heads up once we realized our problem, but go figure, there was that 20 minute hold time on roaming, and it wound up being faster to try dashing for the check-in counter. The Air Canada staff were kind enough to put us on the next flight out of Toronto, for the nominal change fee of $75 each. Am I indignant at this point? No. Miffed at paying a change fee for a delay I couldn't control, sure. But I got where I needed to be, and we were late, after all.

No, the high dudgeon came on Saturday when we showed up at the Montréal airport for our flight home to Vancouver. Our first sign something was wrong was when my husband input his confirmation number into the automated check-in kiosk, and it told us it couldn't find our reservation. How odd, we thought. Then we pulled up in front of the check-in counter, and the customer service representative got a strange expression on his face after reviewing our travel documents and fiddling with his computer. "Did you miss a connection somewhere?" he asked us. So we told him our Toronto story. "Ah, that explains it," he said. "You were no-shows so the Aeroplan system canceled your reservation for today."

I'm sorry, canceled? CANCELED?! After we paid $75 each in fees to make it to our destination? The system ASSUMED we never made it so just erased us from the flight back?

Here's the kicker for me, and why I'm so mad: it did it WITHOUT TELLING US. Aeroplan has all our contact information. The system has our cell phone numbers. It has our e-mail addresses. It e-mails me my tickets. It e-mails me details on minor flight corrections like a 2 minute change in departure time or plane type. It e-mails me spam about new points contests, and Mile Maximizers, Home Hardware promotions and online shopping deals. But it couldn't bother to call or e-mail me to tell me it had canceled my reservation?

That's just shoddy.

We were very lucky. That flight was not oversold. But I listened to that poor Air Canada customer service representative talking to his Aeroplan counterpart. He tried two different phone lines, one of which left him hanging on hold for 10 minutes. When someone finally answered the other line, I couldn't hear the other side of the conversation. But it was very clear to me that whoever he was talking to was basically telling him they could not be of help to him or us. And that if that flight had been oversold, we were up the creek without a paddle.

All's well that ends well, yes. We made it onto that flight. We didn't even have to sit in the separate middle seats we were initially assigned after losing our reserved seats together. We didn't have to pay extra fees for keeping our pets in a kennel for another day or two. Or take extra vacation days for missing work.

But I am not impressed with your company. And I don't think you should be either.

Sincerely,

Katrina Archer

24 comments on “An Open Letter to Rupert Duchesne, President & CEO, Groupe Aeroplan”

  1. Well, Katrina. I feel sorry for you. Shit does happen to everybody. Maybe instead of directing your letter online to someone who will never receive it, try contacting the service center and leaving a formal complaint. A companies intent is never to upset clients and feedback is always welcome - particularly in such a large company where it is hard to control everything. Perhaps a kind suggestion of customer service training would be a good idea and also a revision of their IT systems...you know, something to avoid what happened to you. Im sure you will appreciate that it was an unusual case and although systems dont think, the people who invent them do. And sometimes, well sometimes maybe they just dont think of everything.

    So I guess what Im saying is, take the positive from all this and turn it into something good. Be proactive and do something to help prevent this kind of thing happening to somebody else. Sure, its not your responsibility but none of us would ever develop and grow if it werent for the criticims and advice of others.

    Good luck and stay positive!

    And before you think its never happened to me, try 8 hours in the Buenos Aires airport and then learning that your bags never left your point of origin.

  2. Katrina...I have been with Aeroplan almost since its inception and have watched the decline accelerate to the point that this time I too am going to file a formal complaint. I feel like I have just been put over the log like the guy in the movie "Deliverance" with a similar litany of complaints from our upcoming vacation in Central America. I won't list the details here but I am now in terror of what is going to happen as we change planes and airlines (it is a partner at least) in the Olympic maddness. Tanya has a point but I refuse to roll over on this one and they can take or leave my suggestions as they will...I will be courteous but clear in the unjust treatment that has already cost us an extra night at the airport so we can get through US customs in time for an early flight,the price of 2 extra tickets to come the day before we had originally booked, not to mention the hours on the telephone...my Scots blood is boiling but I will hold my gasket firmly down...put the letter aside for a few hours and go back to it before I send it to as many people in Aeroplan and Air Canada and Star Alliance that I can get addresses for. The logic of their rules escape me because it would not cost them a penny to change our flights to the day before we were booked for...instead we have hours on the telephone costing us all money,

    You write well and I concur that you should send it directly to Management who can, with enough will, change things perhaps...we live in hope and with sadness remember the days of fresh linen, real plates, smiling stews and flying was a pleasure instead of a nightmare

  3. Good luck with your trip, Douglas. And based on my friends' recent experience trying to connect through the U.S. to New Zealand, don't plan on bringing any carry-on, either. They were allowed to bring their camera equipment on the plane, but not the bag that contained it all.

    This reminds me that I have to remind my husband to write the actual complaint letter to Aeroplan, since the booking was in his name...

  4. I had the same conversation with my husband this week. I hope you send the letter to Aeroplan directly. I'm fed up, too. We used to be able to fly pretty much anywhere in Canada, direct, for 15,000 points and I could go business class, Montreal to Vancouver, for 40,000. I had to pay more than that to fly my daughter from Moncton to Montreal this year. If I want the lowest rate, she can have a stopver, overnight, in Halifax. It's ridiculous.

    Funny, but when I missed my flight years ago due to a computer glitch at the airport, they "apologized" by opening an Aeroplan account in my name (since I was using my husband's points on that flight) and depositing enough points for a flight within Canada. Then they didn't follow through and put the points in. After many phone calls, the points went in, but only a fraction of what they promised. So not enough for a flight or rewards, but I've been diligently putting points in here and there until I can redeem them and close the account. This week I got an email saying I'm about to lose the entire account because it hasn't been active enough. If I want to transfer them to my husband's account, I'll lose half. Some apology.

  5. I was about to send a third letter of complaint to Aeroplan, this time to Rupert Duchesne, and was sidetracked by your letter to him. Very well said, which could have been said by anyone of us who have Aeroplan complaints. I especially liked your comment that reward flights are punishments. We flew to Moscow on points last year: Vancouver to Edmonton to Toronto to Frankfurt to Moscow. Going home was on Lufthansa, paid for by our travel insurers, as I'd spent 4 days in hospital in St. Petersburg. Of course, Aeroplan couldn't change the milk run return flight plan and we flew Lufthansa with only a stop in Frankfurt, as prescribed by my doctor. Business Class cost $6,500 each and, of course, points for unused Aeroplan portions are forfeited. Also, all the bouncing around invariably has an economy portion in the business class flight, usually a long portion (Edmonton to Toronto, not Vancouver to Edmonton), again with no credit for the difference.
    I don't suppose you had an answer to your complaint. Of the many letters I have sent to various Aeroplan executives, I have yet to receive a reply. Shame on them.

  6. Katrina: Count me as one of the hugely dis-satisfied! I consider myself a "positive" person, but at some point even the person wearing the rosiest-colored glasses has to realize that the company is counting on them to not put up a fuss.

    In my case, Aeroplan was untruthful with me (I'd use a stronger word but I've lost respect for the company and don't trust them not to use any opportunity to classify me as unreasonable). I received a call three weeks before the departure date indicating that the direct flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Ottawa (AC# 1221) had been cancelled and that they were re-routing me with one stop in Toronto. I specifically asked if I was being bumped from 1221, or was it cancelled. The agent replied that no, they wouldn't bump me; but in that case the flight was cancelled. Well, guess what I saw when I arrived for my flight at Ft. Lauderdale (?): Air Canada Flight 1221, with direct service to Ottawa, was still scheduled and "on time".

    I'm upset enough that I will contact Aeroplan to complain. Although, I am not optimistic that it will do me any good. I too, have had unpleasant experiences with Aeroplan's wait-times for customer service reps. (I feel sorry for them. It can't be a pleasant job.) My view is that Aeroplan has consciously decided to cut back on its customer service people for one of two reasons - either the number of calls don't justify having a large number of reps to speak to, or they don't place that high a value on member satisfaction. Draw your own conclusions on that one!

    I'd love to be able to skip the front-line cust/serv reps (who seem to be trained to deflect the criticisms and wear you down), and go straight to the Pres and VP of Member Relations. It would be nice to have an e-mail from one of its corporate officers that shows their corporate e-mail format. It's debatable on my chances of success, but at least it would give me some satisfaction knowing that the top level is hearing the extent to which members are not pleased.

  7. Katrina!
    I wish I could write in English as you do as I saw the declining service of Aeroplan over two decades now, starting with the fact that your points now can expire. I signed a contract with them where this was not mentioned. How can they just do things like that to an old customer?

    And the waiting time at the phone is just incredible! 15 Minutes is the least. Why don't they hire enough agents or make their administration (and the rules and regulations) slimmer?

    And now I tried to get a direct flight from Calgary to Frankfort, so my wife can be at our son's borthday September 25th. On the internet you only can fly via London or Chicago (6 h 40 m transit time). On the phone - after 20 minutes - an agent tells me with not too much "politesse" that there are no direct flights in Executive available, you have to book a year ahead! For our son I could make the reservation in July, but in the dummy class! But also there was no flight on the internet, only by the 800 number.

    Also these endless advertising ... I am at the stage that I ignore the companies listed there if I have to shop. Same with the ones who interrupt my movies, especially the ones with tv spots where you should laugh over somebody's pain ...

    To resume: Aeroiplan is a pain, not a pleasure anymore! I'm looking for an alternative!

    With warm regards Rene

  8. Great letter Katrina! Did you ever hear back from them? I am trying to find someone at Aeroplan that will actually take responsibility for complanits that are being made about the program.
    Am an avid Aeroplan points collector but am starting to wonder if they are worth the effort: I have enough points to fly in Business Class which I like to do on very long flights BUT seats from Vancouver to Europe are IMPOSSIBLE to get even 9 months ahead of departure. Am thinking that Aeroplan is listing rewards that they do not actually have! I have tried to find out more about allocation numbers but noone is answering me from Aeroplan or Air Canada.

  9. I am so frustrated with Air Canada and Aeroplan, I could spit nails. May be easy to earn miles but it is just about impossible to use them. I am dropping Aeroplan and going to Westjet for everything!!!!!

  10. I've been a long time Aeroplan member and Super-Elite or Elite for over a decade. I'm done with Aeroplan and have moved to another flight rewards program. My main complaint: It now takes twice as many or more points plus multiple connections to book a "reward" flight. As the open letter says, "these aren't rewards, they are punishments." Bye bye Aeroplan.. We had some great times but it seems you have become a victim of your own success.

  11. Yes, I'm seriously considering moving to Avion. I tried to book Vancouver-Montreal recently and it was either 85,000 points, or 3 hops. Ri-ight.

  12. I am so fed up with Aeroplan that I wrote a 2 page complaint letter with detailed examples of blatant rip-off non-rewards. My problem is that I don't know who to send it to. Aeroplan like Air Canada does not have a complaint department nor an ombudsman so if I send it to the general Aeroplan address they will surely file it in the trash. Do you have an address that I can send it and be effective?

  13. About 3 weeks ago I tried to book 3 plane tickets from Toronto to St. Louis returning 10 days later from New Orleans to Toronto. I put in my departure date and put in a return date of 4 days later as I was just over a year out if I had put in my actual return date at that time. However, the system came back with confirmation that I had the 3 seats for a total of 75,000 Aeroplan points. I could not confirm this at that time as my return date was wrong. When I was allowed to put in my return date about two weeks later since it was within a year for some reason NO flights were available. However, there were Classic seats available for three times the normal flights points cost.
    I called Aeroplan and asked them what happened to the seats that were available two weeks ago and they said that Aeroplan must have removed the seats due to recheduling the flights or a change of aircraft ( funny that the Classic seats were still available ). They also told me that they could see the flights that I had nearly booked and that NO aeroplan seats had been booked on these flights.

    I have been told to try and book my flights every week and hopefully some seats will come available in the future. ( no guarantee of this )

    Another concern I have is overseas flights to London England from Toronto Canada. I tried to book two seats return and was able to however the taxes etc would cost me over $1300 canadian. I then decided to try and book the flights without aeroplan miles and the taxes etc. were about $700. The difference I noticed was that when using Aeroplan miles the airlines charge for something called a Fuel Surcharge and when booking directly with the airlines there is no charge for a Fuel Surcharge. I called Aeroplan and they said that this was an Airline rule and they could not do anything about it. I hate to disagree however is it not Aeroplan that signs the deals with the Airlines, that would be the time to tell the airlines that they should not charge Aeroplan members additional fees that normal passengers do have to pay.

    I rest my case and will be cancelling my Aeroplan Visa card when it comes up for renewal in the spring. Remember it costs $170 per year for my wife and I to carry the aeroplan visa card, since it is not getting me any good deals there is no sense in staying in the plan.

    Regards

    Bob Hughes

  14. Hi All,

    There is a Class Action Lawsuit against Aeroplan being headed by Merchant Law Group LLP... Finally! If anyone here would like to participate in this law suit you may sign up at the following link:

    http://www.merchantlaw.com/classactions/aeroplan.php

    Like many people here I was also cheated by Aeroplan and my 84,000 points were nullified due to inactivity. I called Aeroplan and they basically told me to too bad so sad! Apparently a notification was sent at some point in history and there's nothing they can do... This is an outrage we should stand up to such unethical corporate behavior otherwise they will just keep on exploiting without recourse.

    Dimitre

  15. I require email address's for the President of Aeroplan, customer complaint line and customer service
    Thank you!

  16. I have been an Aeroplan member since 1995. During that time, I have amassed close to 1.5 million miles, and have redeemed many trips. I always assumed that I would stay with Aeroplan, as I had done well by them, as they had with me.

    In August 2013, I redeemed 180 000 points to fly executive with my partner to Paris for Aug/Sept of 2014. The fees for this trip amounted to $2 116.92, including a "fuel surcharge" of $876 per person.
    ?I then took a look at exactly the same flight for two executive tickets purchased directly from Air Canada, and found the price to be approximately $8 600. In other words, I used 180 000 points, and was still charged about 1/4 the full price of two executive tickets.

    I decided to do some more investigating. I tried booking the same trip through Aeroplan, but this time in economy. The fees for that booking were $1 212.52, including a "fuel charge" of $476 per person.
    Somehow, the “Fuel Surcharge” was exactly $400 less per person, simply because the booking was economy. No other fees changed. Perhaps it is the belief of Aeroplan or Air Canada that anyone who can “afford” to fly executive can “afford” to pay virtually twice the fuel surcharge. The fact that I used 180 000 points that took almost 7 years to accumulate apparently means nothing to those companies.

    After further research (looking at an Aeroplan booking out of Buffalo NY instead of Toronto ON for the same executive trip to France) I found the fees totaled $446.40. What a difference - no fuel surcharge! I know that Air Canada has chosen to maintain its fuel charge, even though its Alliance partners have not. Even accepting that premise, the almost doubling of the charge because of booking executive is outright theft.

    Subsequently, I altered my booking so that we could return executive three weeks later. The agent charged my account $180 for the alteration. The website says that to change a reservation costs $90. This trip was booked under one code, yet the agent said that because two tickets were involved, the fee was twice $90. Here is another example of a cash grab.

    Since that time, the Aeroplan account has changed (for the most part) from CIBC to TD (with whom I have been banking for over 40 years.) When I first read about this arrangement last year, I thought that it would suit me fine. Over the past half year however, I started thinking about my Aeroplan experience from the beginning. I have found that, over time, Aeroplan has become more and more expensive in terms of points required, along with fees that now approach the cost of a regular flight. I had always thought that I would stay with Aeroplan, as I use my points for flying and nothing else. What I am coming to realize is that my commitment to Aeroplan is costing me more every time I redeem points to fly.

    The fact that I’ve achieved Black Distinction with Aeroplan for 2014 has little impact on my situation: I seldom ever stay at hotels or rent a car when I travel, I don’t use eStore, and the other “perks” mean as little.

    Many other cards now allow the user unrestricted access to any flight, any time. The cost in points is usually more, but the scheduling flexibility, and the ability to pay fees using points as well, is becoming extremely appealing. I will be taking this change in business climate as an opportunity to find a card and plan that may better serve me.

  17. I love Aeroplan, I hate Aeroplan, I love Aeroplan, I hate Aeroplan…..

    Sound familiar…

    Im throwing this out there because i need to hear it from another perspective.

    I have moved to the USA and no longer want to use my credit cards from Canada because they charge a 3% foreign transaction fee on all purchases.

    I have Amex Aeroplan ($500) year
    CIBC Aventura ($129) year
    CIBC Infinite ($129) year

    I now have Amex Platinum in the US and i can transfer my amex points to aeoplan no problem, the challenge is i receive NO credit towards distinction and that upsets me.

    Any suggestions?

    As for all the previous comments.

    Here are some suggestions for international travel,
    If i fly out of YYZ or JFK heading toward Europe the fees are well over $1000
    Try taking flights out of ORD or IAH or LAX fees are less then half.

    I just booked an open jaw ticket to BKK (bangkok) First class (420,000 points) 2 people
    Flying from east coast like Toronto or New York fees are $2000 for 2 people. ( Germany fuel charge high)
    Flying out of Los Angeles the fees where $420 for 2 people

    Any suggestions of what other points programs would compare or be better then Aeroplan???

    Best advice to give to all members….. Find someone who is a Diamond Distinction member, key in their number on the automated phone and you will get a live operator in 1 minute and not 30 minutes. Then go ahead and give them your aeroplan number when they ask again for it.
    Saves a bunch of headaches and waiting

    Your welcome

  18. Hi Katrina

    My wife and I have been trying for over a month to book a return flight to Montreal from St. John's three months out. Same deal as you we have to go to places we don't want to go, spend hours in layovers, AND use long haul points to get to our destination. To add insult to injury a major credit card we just signed on with gave us a 2for to use on a short haul flight as an incentive, however Aeroplan will honour it only if a shout haul points (ie 15k points) flight is available. It's just not worth the hassle any more, and I have been with the program since the early days and collected more than a million miles.

    Rolly

  19. May 2014 and it doesn't get any better, Katrina. Tried to use my points last year to bring our daughter from Ottawa to Victoria and have just now tried to book flights for my wife and myself from Victoria to Ottawa this September. (a) the dates we would like to fly - nothing available. (b) on the only suitable dates - only "red eye" flights in both directions, the return one taking 18 hours! Not the most appealing prospects for 80 year olds! (c) It was the same situation with our daughter last year as we tried to book months in advance - "red eye" only. And (d) how do you contact the far-from-dearly-beloved Rupert directly? All the "contact us" links are about something else, never about making an actual contact with anybody.

    It's obvious that Air Canada/Aeroplan are only interested in selling seats - not in actually having you redeem your points in a reasonable fashion on their flights. Thank goodness for WestJet!

    Danny.

  20. Ahhhh....the untouchable Air Canada.

    Calin Rovinescu - you are just a pathetic little man who is better suited (just barely) to run a kite factory in a 3rd world country.

    I now refer to these incompetent and uncaring idiots as "Air Whatever". I refuse to use or associate the name of our great country with this horrendous organization.

    Ok folks - all together now.......let's start a new branding campaign for "that" airline that all Canadians dislike.......now known as "Air Whatever"

    "I don't care to fly Air Whatever"

    I look forward to Westjet ruling the CDN skies (and marketshare)

    Thanks Katrina.

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