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.